My Sleep Number bed review

July 11th, 2013 at 11:12 am by Blazer

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Long story short for the “TLDR” folks: 

We got a new Sleep Number bed. After sleeping on it for over a week now, I can safely say that it’s awesome. I can now sleep through the night with no back pain. I would recommend one.

FAQ

  • Where did you get it?
    • After a thorough demo we ordered from the Sleep Number store at our local mall. They delivered it within 2 weeks and set it up in about 20 minutes.
  • How much do they cost?
    • Comparable to a regular mattress, unless you go all-out on options like the powered flex base, etc.
  • Are they really “just an air mattress”?
    • Yes and no. It is indeed filled with air of a volume you you control via the remote. It’s not just a single big air chamber like a cheapo air mattress, there are chambers that – you know what…does it even really matter? If it feels awesome, looks awesome, and lasts longer than a regular mattress, It could be filled with cotton candy for all we care :P
  • What’s the warranty like?
    • Actually pretty awesome. It’s a 25-year (pro-rated of course) warranty, which is way more than you get on a regular mattress. Also since it is modular, if something does need replacing, you can replace just that part (interior foam, the firmness control system, etc) instead of having to replace the whole thing.
  • So nothing bad to say at all? All Pro’s and no Con’s?
    • So far my only concern (and mostly because I am considerably overweight), is that if the firmness setting is set very low, that if you sit on the side of the bed, you will kind of “sink” into the softer area, which seems like it would put undue stress on the foam side supports. So far I am being paranoid and adjusting the firmness to 100 before I get out of bed. I have no idea if my concerns are warranted, but even if I did somehow damage the sides from repeated squashing, the warranty would replace it, so I should chill out.

The gory details: 

We’ve had our current king-sized mattress for around 7 years now, and although it looks brand spanking new, it’s innards just don’t work like they used to. Several months ago I started having back pain if I slept longer than 4 hours. I tried laying on my side, putting a pillow under my back, nothing helped, and it kept getting worse. We noticed that our mattress had developed “dips” in the areas where we lay. Sleeping in a curved “hammock” may feel comfortable for a nap, but after hours of having your spine curved, your body starts to rebel.

As I said it kept getting worse. It got to the point that I couldn’t even sleep in on the weekends, as I would wake up with my back killing me, and the only thing that would make it stop hurting was to get out of bed and stand or sit up in a normal position. We were not relishing the idea of purchasing a new mattress, because those things can be downright expensive, especially king-sized ones.

We decided that, big expense or not, we needed a new mattress, a decent night’s sleep depended on it. With us splitting the cost and me utilizing my credit card, the monetary impact wouldn’t really be so bad. So one day we decided to go to the Sleep Number store at the local mall. To sum up that experience, it was so amazing that we bought one on the spot!

We first got a cool demo of how a Sleep Number bed feels. They have a demo bad that contains sensors, and has a real-time display of how much pressure your body is putting on the surface of the bed. I wanted to take a picture but their system happily emails it to you. Here’s my “before” with the firmness set on 100, and “after” with it set to where I felt the most comfortable (45).

sleepnumber

As you can see, a lot of the pressure in my lower back was relieved, and it felt awesome to both me and Christine. After demoing all of their different mattresses, we decided on the “C4″, which is a step up from their cheapest C3 model, not because of the price, but because to us the difference in firmness levels was much more pronounced with the C models – probably because they do not have boat loads of cushioning and memory foam like the higher models. The various other models certainly looked fancier, but they comfort level wasn’t substantially more than the C models in our opinion. We mainly cared about how it felt, now how it looked when it was naked with no sheets etc on it. They showed us a cool optional base that lets you tilt the bed up and down both front and back, but that option was way expensive, and although it was fun to play with, we wouldn’t really use the feature enough to be worth it.

So we placed the order for the “C4″, which was the same as the “C3″ except that it is a bit taller/thicker. Since our current mattress is very tall/thick, I thought this would be the smoothest transition for us. We splurged for a “temperature balance” mattress cover that is made of some crazy material that wicks heat away, it almost feels air-conditioned (they do have a mattress topper that is literally air-conditioned and heated, and it was awesome but ungodly expensive…literally $2k just for that…we said no thanks, it’s cool but not THAT cool!). We ended up paying around $2800.00 total – that’s including tax, the extra accessories we bought, plus home delivery and setup.

We anxiously waited the 2 weeks for the delivery, and the first night,  I picked 80 (our of 100) for my firmness setting. I woke up in the morning with back pain! WTH right? I thought what I wanted was more firmness and support, but I discovered through several nights of trying differing settings, that what actually felt the best was not rock-hard support, but rather just support where I needed it.

sleepnumber1

This graphic pretty accurately describes how I was “doing it wrong”.

After several nights of trials I discovered that my preferred setting was the one I had chosen in the store when we used the demo mattress…”45″.  Christine’s number is “50″. From looking at stats provided in the documentation, apparently “most” customers prefer a setting between 35-55.

So, that’s my review so far. I would definitely recommend a Sleep Number bed, ESPECIALLY if you:

  • Have back pain from sleeping or problems getting comfortable
  • Have a partner who likes a different level of firmness than you
  • Your current mattress is worn out and you need a new one, and would like a better/longer warranty.

Lastly, if you are one of my friends and thinking of getting a Sleep Number bed, I can give you a referral code that gets you 10% off and I think I get $100 in store credit, a good deal for us both, but the best deal is finally getting a good night’s sleep!

Buttermilk Ranch & Plain Ranch – What’s the Diff?

February 18th, 2013 at 7:45 pm by Blazer

So the other day I was grocery shopping. One of the things on my list was Ranch dressing. I usually get the “Buttermilk” ranch, because to me it tastes creamier and better. I usually make my own (with the spice packets, buttermilk, etc), but this time I was specifically shopping for bottles of already made Ranch.

I noticed that right next to the Buttermilk Ranch, was “Classic Ranch”, and they seemed very similar. They both said “Anything Dressing” on the package, and visually looked very similar. I took a quick look at the ingredients and to my surprise I noted that the non-buttermilk ranch also has…buttermilk! I wondered if they were actually the same but didn’t want to stand there scrutinizing the ingredients list, which also for some reason used a different order of ingredients. I bought one bottle of each, so that my taste buds could also have a go at telling the difference.

IMG_1274     IMG_1273

I have tasted both, and they do taste very similar. I decided to compare the ingredients lists to see exactly what the difference was.
As I had noted, the lists are in a different order from each other for some reason. So I alphabetized each list, and then compared them.

I made a table of the 2 ingredients lists, highlighting the common ingredients in green, and the unique ingredients in orange.

Comparison

Some things of note:

  • The Buttermilk Ranch says it has “NATURAL FLAVOR”, while the Classic Ranch says it has “ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR” (and “ARTIFICIAL COLOR”)
  • Both variants contain “BUTTERMILK”
  • They both list “SPICE”, but do not say what the “SPICE” is.
  • The nutritional stats are very similar. The Buttermilk Ranch has a little more saturated fat (but same total fat) and cholesterol (apparently due to having more sugar), and contains slightly less Sodium than the Classic Ranch

So, no earth-shattering discovery here. It’s not even really worth blogging about, but since I bothered to take the pictures and compare the ingredients, I figured why not? Maybe someone will find it interesting.

Exercising again

January 18th, 2013 at 6:39 pm by Blazer

After a hiatus of a couple of months, I went for a 1.6 mile walk yesterday. The walk was pain-free and felt good, yet about 30 minutes after the walk, my knee started hurting when I put weight on it. I think it’s because I did a lot of stepping on and off of curbs on the walk, but strangely I didn’t notice any pain at all until later.

Going to take a day or two off to heal up and then hit it again. I also need to return to the gym and get some swimming in.

Meteor shower and Perihelion

January 2nd, 2013 at 7:27 am by Blazer

Today the earth will be the closest to the sun for 2013. Don’t expect to see a “Super Sun”, tt’s not a huge difference, only about 3.4% more than when it is farthest away, which happens right after the 4th of July.

Also today/tonight is the peak of the Quadrantid Meteor shower. Sadly tonights bright moon will make all but the brightest meteors hard to see. The viewing window on this one is relatively short. See http://www.space.com/19080-quadrantid-meteor-shower-2013-peak.html for more info.

Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2013 at 5:52 pm by Blazer

This blog is still alive, as am I. Hopefully I will post an update to my Solar Project soon. Happy New Year, hopefully 2013 treats us all better than 2012 did.

Annular Solar Eclipse, May 20 2012

May 20th, 2012 at 4:13 pm by Blazer

Today at sunset there will be an “annular” (partual) eclipse of the sun. An annular eclipse is different from a total elipse in that the moon is not close enough to completely obscure the sun. So the skies will not darken like they do during a total eclipse, but in the optimal viewing areas almost 90% of the sun will be obscured and you will see a “ring of fire”. Note that even in this mostly obscured state, the ring is still extremely bright and not safe to look at with your naked eyes.

The eclipse will only be viewable in the U.S. to those in the SouthWest. Here is a cool site that has animations that show what you can expect to see in your area (click your state): http://shadowandsubstance.com/

For those of us in Phoenix, AZ the eclipse should start at around 5:30pm and last through sunset, with the peak at around 6:39 pm. The farther north you are (Flagstaff and upwards) , the better the view will be.

Now for the important safety tips. The #1 tip is actually important. It’s not just a casual BS thing like “don’t go swimming for 30 minutes after you eat”. THIS IS SERIOUS!

Tip #1: NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN! Did you ever burn stuff with a magnifying glass as a kid? This is what happens to your retinas inside your eyes if you look at the sun. Your retinas have no pain receptors, so you won’t even feel it happening, just “ooh that is pretty bright”, and then find out you have some PERMANENT BLINDNESS because your retinas do not regenerate like sunburned skin does! Wearing sunglasses does not help, as even though they work good for indirect sunlight, they do not block enough of the direct light of the sun. Even if they appear to darken it enough, they are not blocking all of the UV light that you cannot see but can still damage your eyes.

Tip #2: The only safe way to look directly at the sun is with a real solar filter, which most folks probably don’t have laying around the house. You can also buy “eclipse glasses” but most people probably don’t have those either. Don’t try to take pictures with your camera either, unless you have a solar filter for it…you can damage the image sensor, and the sun is just too bright to get a decent picture anyway without a filter. If you happen to have access to a welders visor or goggles, those would work.

image of pinhole camera with fingersTip #3:  Safe ways to view the eclipse with common household objects. You can make a “pinhole camera http://www.space.com/15737-safely-sun-build-shoebox-pinhole-camera-video.html. This requires some prep. You can also make a “pinhole” camera of sorts using just your hands. Just cross your fingers at right angles and you will make tiny holes for the sun to stream through.

Tip #4: Another way to safely view the eclipse if you happen to own a pair of binoculars. DO NOT LOOK THROUGH THE BINOCULARS! align them with the sun and you can project about a quarter-sized image of the sun out of the eyepiece onto a white surface, such as a paper plate or sheet of paper. You may have to adjust the focus to get a clear image. It should be a light white sphere, and you should even be able to make out any sunspots. Again, DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN THROUGH BINOCULARS, even for a second! Viewing the image projected onto a surface from the binoculars is completely safe though, and can be seen by multiple people.

Eclipse Shadows

Tip#5: If you don’t have binoculars or the inclination to build a pinhole camera, try just looking at the shadows created by a tree during the peak of the eclipse. You should notice that all the tiny sunbeams that stream through the leaves actually show images of the sun! It’s actually a very striking effect:

I will be taking some pictures of the eclipse using my camera and a DIY solar filter that I made out of a layer from a DVD-R disc. Here is a sample image:
Sun

 

 

 

Weight Loss

February 24th, 2012 at 6:52 pm by Blazer

THIS IS MY WEIGHT OVER THE PAST 4 YEARS (yes I kept records)! As you can see at the end of 09 I started a weight loss plan that was going well…until I went to the hospital in 02-2010 for something minor, but cancelled my dieting. After hitting a super max weight of 430 I decided ENOUGH, and I have now begun my weight loss again, and already seeing an effect after only days. This time I WILL SUCCEED. I have no illusions of losing all my weight quickly. This is going to take a long, long time, but I WILL make steady progress. First goal, getting under 400lbs. I expect to reach this before the end of March. Onward!

 

Sunset Time-Lapse 11/5/2011

November 6th, 2011 at 11:30 am by Blazer

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUfa4jEfDzY">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUfa4jEfDzY&w=512&h=352]

Frames taken with Canon SX30-IS + CHDK intervalometer. Assembled with Sony Vegas Pro 10.0. Royalty free background music from http://incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/

iPhone 4S – What’s REALLY New

October 16th, 2011 at 2:29 pm by Blazer

There seems to be some common misconceptions (at least amongst those not familiar with the new iPhone). Probably the most common of these is:

  • There’s nothing new, “It’s the same as the last model just with an S” (thus the new meme showing just a roll of “S” stickers).
  • The only new thing is the camera (Most non iPhone people have at least heard of the camera upgrade).
  • The S is for Siri which is just a software feature. I’m not actually sure of the official reason for the S designation. I know when the 3GS came out Jobs said “The S is for Speed”, so I assume that is the same deal now, with the cpu/gpu/network upgrade.

In short, the implication is that those of us who have or are considering an upgrade from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 4S are just idiots who are blindly upgrading because we are in some sort of Apple trance. In this post I am only addressing the differences between the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S (except when I mention “any other phone/device”). If you were expecting a “This is why the iPhone is better or worse than an Android phone” rant, sorry, just FACTS here.

I have grown tired of having to correct people who are incorrectly repeating the “nothing new” garbage. I’ve noticed that many of these folks who attack iPhone owners do NOT change their attitude in the slightest when confronted with the actual facts, but nonetheless here I shall provide the raw data, and all the bashing and evangelical arguments can be done elsewhere.

iPhone 4S hardware upgrades:

  • CPU – Dual-core CPU via the A5 processor that is in the iPad2 – more than 2X faster (even though underclocked by 200Mhz from the iPad2 – assuming to save battery life or heat build-up).
  • GPU – New dual-core GPU for the best gaming possible on a mobile phone – 7x faster
  • Camera – New 8MP camera, with new optics, 1080P video recording, & image stabilizationCaptures 73% more light, takes successive pictures 2x faster than any other phone.
  • Battery – Slightly higher capacity battery with more talk time despite the new faster CPU
  • Antenna – New dual antenna design and new diversity (ability to select the antenna that has the best signal) for both transmit and receive for better call reception and quality.
  • Storage – Top model now has 64GB – 2x more storage
  • Data Speed – HSPA+ which gives 14.4Mbps down, 5.8Mbps up – 2x faster download. These are the exact same speeds that many other phones that call themselves “4G” have, including the “Motorola Atrix 4G”,  “HTC Inspire 4G”, etc.
  • Vibrator – Yes even the vibrator motor on the 4S is a new “linear oscillating” motor instead of the old “rotational with counterweight” motor used in the ATT iPhone4 (The verizon model already got the new one). The new motor is reportedly more quiet and smooth.
  • Sound Volume – Not sure what changes were made, but testing has shown that the iPhone 4S has at least 6db more volume output than the iPhone4. This was probably done to make Siri easier to hear, but also gives more volume for music playback, ring/text alerts, and speakerphone usage.
  • GPS – The iPhone 4S now additionally supports both GPS and GLONASS (which is a Russian satellite network they are using for GPS that just came online this year). As a result, it gets a position fix more quickly, and displays your location more accurately.
  • RAM – The iPhone 4S has the same amount of RAM, but the RAM is DDR2-800 instead of the DDR1-400 that the iPhone 4 uses. The result is memory bandwidth (speed reading and writing to memory) is doubled.

So there I have shown you at least 11 hardware upgrades that the iPhone 4S has. [EDIT: Even more upgrades that I didn't mention: Bluetooth 4.0, Front-facing camera is now 30fps, & Compass is now digital instead of analog.] I didn’t even delve into the software updates of iOS5 (200 new features) because technically the new iOS can be installed on older devices and so should not really count as an upgrade (except Siri, which for now only runs on the 4S – But I’m sure jailbreakers will port it to other devices soon).

I would like to point out that the iPhone 4S has nearly every feature that was rumored and wanted to be for the “iPhone5″ except:

  1. It’s not called the “iPhone 5″ – people seriously are upset about this <facepalm>
  2. Not LTE aka “real 4G” – I knew this would happen as the current generation LTE chipset is just too power-hungry and Apple would never allow a newer model to have LESS battery life. HSPA+ was chosen because it is faster than regular 3G without the battery drain.
  3. No bigger screen / new design – The iPhone4S still has the “same old” retina display. While it’s not the 4″+ screen people wanted, it is still the best display in both resolution (960×640) and DPI (326 pixels per inch) of any mobile device. Sadly, if they had released with a larger display, people would probably complain about their old cases and mounts not fitting anymore.

I predict that the “iPhone 5″ will not come out until the new LTE chipsets arrive that use less power, and/or they do create a new model that has a larger display and could thus also have a larger battery to handle the drain of LTE. Honestly, the fixation people have with LTE is questionable, because, other than tethering, exactly why do you require 20MB/s downloads to your PHONE? Are apps going to be faster? No. Is YouTube going to stream faster? No. Are web pages going to load faster? Maybe. Is loading a page in .5 seconds instead of .8 seconds worth your phones battery not lasting all day? I don’t think so, but I totally agree for tethering LTE is awesome. I also predict that in any newer model that lets them expand the battery size they will also stop underclocking the A5 CPU, which will give it another 200Mhz and thus an instant “upgrade” of processing power (Assuming they underclocked it to save battery life and/or heat build up).

Online Underground IRC

August 24th, 2011 at 5:36 pm by Blazer

UPDATE/EDIT 08/26/2011: Well, I had to remove the embedded video clip. My YouTube account got the smackdown by 20th Century Fox who apparently doesn’t appreciate me posting a 20 second clip of their precious show. Sigh.
I extracted a clip from an recent episode of White Collar that made me chuckle. They basically were wondering how they could make contact with a “Hacker”, and one of the characters announces “The online underground communicates via IRC.”  That may be somewhat true, but hearing it on a TV show was amusing. One of the follow-up lines was also amusing; “How do you get the attention of a hacker, say ‘hi’ from Microsoft source code?”. Along with the realization of once text is entered into IRC it is too late; “You already posted it? Take it down, now! – It can’t be undone.” Along with the screen-shot of the IRC conversation with “Vulture”:

TV IRC Conversation They weren’t too far off the mark. I usually wince when TV shows or movies try to accurately (or not) depict tech scenarios such as this. – Just see one of my ealier posts about “Spoof the PI” for a great example.

So, while the technical details were obscure enough to be passable, it was still amusing that they were able to instantly find some random Hacker on IRC, and within seconds get him to agree to meet with them. Ah well, it’s just a plot device right?