Powerless

December 15th, 2014 at 8:12 pm by Blazer

Powerless

The shards of broken dreams can cut so deep.
The echoes of what if’s, and why’s make it impossible to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream, of a world still intact.
Where Love always wins, and the deck not unfairly stacked.
Alas, it’s just a dream, the light of day brings forth its harsh light.
I try to find a way, to survive another night.
Without your Love I am broken and alone.
A deep dark pit stands where once your light shone.
I don’t know how to live without you by my side.
I don’t know how your Love for me could have died.
I am no longer whole, half a person at most.
With a broken heart and a wounded soul, I am but a ghost.
My Love means less to you with each passing day.
It seems that like a ghost, I will slowly fade away.
Of all the hardships I have ever endured,
Of all the nightmares that have come true,
The hardest thing for sure, is losing you.
I don’t know how to make it until the next day.
I know there is nothing that I can do or say.
I remain powerless, watching you slip away.

Back online

December 3rd, 2014 at 7:02 pm by Blazer

This blog was apparently offline for an extended period of time due to a DNS misconfiguration. It is obviously back now, and I also updated to the latest version of WordPress and all Plugins. As usual, at least one of the plugin updates broke something, which I will be fixing.

I guess it says something that my blog was offline for months and nobody even noticed :)

Movie Review: Edge of Tommorrow

June 25th, 2014 at 9:06 pm by Blazer

Basically it’s like a mashup of groundhog day and starship troopers. There are quite a few plot-required time loops – I wasn’t sure how many more times I could stand to hear Bill Paxton’s fake accent. Blunt’s character was a bad-ass.Tom Cruise’s acting was good, better than usual perhaps, because he wasn’t so “switched on” as he usually is in his roles, his character spends a lot of time being scared crap-less and unsure of what the hell is happening. The very end was predictable but the action was good and suspenseful. Overall a good action sci-fi flick if you don’t nit-pick the plot and just eat your popcorn 

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!