Sunday, March 22, 2009

Living With New Glasses

This is an interesting change in my life. I've had reading glasses before - that I used when working on computers, mostly - but not glasses that I've worn all the time. Making the adjustment is not as simple as I'd like.

I was told that these new glasses would make driving at night easier, and - so far - perhaps they do reduce eye strain from oncoming headlights, but they also give me lots of "spikes" from bright point sources that I find irritating.

Certain lighting conditions seem to result in light bouncing off the edges of the lenses and give things a slightly foggy look, too. I noted this most strongly while watching a concert last night. Depending on the angle I held my head at, the light off the stage caused the issue. But, of course, looking at the lenses directly against a uniformly colored background shows they are perfectly clear.

Condensation and rain clearly don't mix well with glasses either, and I've already experienced both of those, though not to any huge degree yet.

The most irritating thing, though, as to be learning to turn my head instead of just moving my eyes. The "sweet spot" with these lenses isn't always in the right place, particularly when I am reading. I find that I have to adjust the position of the book because my head can't comfortably point any farther down.

It's while reading that I am doing most of my experiments with what is and isn't in focus, and I'm wondering a little bit about that too. Sometimes, while reading I think that one eye - generally the left - is in focus, while the other is slightly out of whack. I move things around - head, eyes, reading material - and play games. (Close one eye, bring the reading material into focus with the open eye by moving reading material and/or head around. Switch to the other eye being open and see if things are in focus for it, doing the best I can not to move during the process.) I wish I had something conclusive on this issue, but I don't yet. Just an odd feeling that things might not be quite right, but it could just as easily be that I'm not yet adjusted to how to hold my head while using these new glasses.

I'm sure I'll work this out eventually, but it gives me new appreciation for the difficulties of full time lens wearers.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Glasses

I'm getting old.

New glasses.

And not just any new glasses, but bifocals. (Well, technically, they aren't bifocals - they're progressive lenses.)

These are going to to take some getting used to.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

On The Stupidity of Employer Provided Healthcare

Time for a rant. Sorry.

I've been hearing and reading a lot of crap lately. All kinds of people are up in arms about the fact that Obama wants to do something about health care. There's all kinds of FUD being spread around as a result. I'm no health care expert and I would never claim to be one, but I do have an opinion or two, and a couple of facts to state:

1) I personally know too many people who don't have and cannot afford health insurance. I'm not talking about bums living under overpasses either, but good, hard working people - some with jobs, some who've lost jobs in the economic crash. And if a working software engineer is seeing these problems regularly, they're going to be a lot worse among people whose incomes are lower.

2) Getting health coverage through one's employer is stupid. Even in the best of cases it means that things can change in nasty ways during a job change, but much worse is possible. Lose your job, lose your insurance. Have a serious medical condition requiring ongoing treatment? Too bad. Got a family that depends on you? Too bad for them too. If it really was the case that everyone who lost his or her job deserved to lose it you might make an argument in favor of this turn of events, but I think you'd lose it when others - dependants of one sort or another - are considered.

3) A lot of vitriol is thrown around about the government being a lousy solution. How it is inefficient or corrupt. But no one ever stops and says "compared to what?" Recent events in the financial system - multiple ponzi schemes and billions of dollars lot - should be enough to make everyone take a step back and realize that there is no group of people that isn't subject to corruption and the effects of greed. Not one. The government is no worse than any business in this regard, and (in fact) it might be better, since much of our government is supposed to be open and accountable. The same cannot be said for the innards of most corporations.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I have a solution for health care in mind. I don't even know to what extent the government should be involved. In truth, I haven't a clue what a real solution will look like, but I do know that anything that continues to tie health care to employment is a problem. I've also come to the conclusion that insurance as we currently do it is a bad idea. Insurance companies are supposed to spread risk around. Everyone pays a little in and the company pays out when people experience the insured risk. But if they limit themselves to only insuring those at little or no risk, they aren't performing the service for which they were created and have instead become money making machines. In the process those who cannot get coverage are hurt. I find that unconscionable.

It may be un-American, but I actually think we get something for our taxes. Things like roads, courts, national defense, police, fire & EMS services, environmental protection, and (when it works) regulation to keep the most greedy among us from taking advantage of everyone else. My list is a good deal too short, but you get the idea. My taxes get me something in return. The life I lead is better because I pay them.

Specifically on health care, I would love to see a day when someone who is sick or injured doesn't face death, bankruptcy, or poor quality treatment for lack of money. To be honest, I'm willing to see my own taxes go up to make that happen. I've seen enough people worry about whether or not to go to a doctor or hospital already in my short life. That is not a choice anyone should have to make for financial reasons. Ever.

To this day I think a society can best be judged by how it treats the least fortunate among its members. On that front the US stinks. It needs to be fixed.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Something Complicated Actually Worked!

I've been so busy lately I haven't been posting much. I apologize to each of my three readers for leaving them in suspense too often.

Today I get to report on a bit of good technology news. As you may know, my recent luck with tech - particularly computers - has not been stellar, but just this once I have something to share that seems to be OK.

My ISP - a no name outfit that does wireless connections here the in the Santa Cruz Mountains where Verizon and cable companies dare not provide reasonable service - has been giving me fits lately. The connection has been poor at best, and sometimes didn't work at all. They've been out for a couple of visits (one of which they've billed me for, which I will be complaining about to them soon) but in the end had to admit that they were simply unable to get me a reasonable signal. Not good.

In desperation I've searched for alternatives, and finally settled on something that seems to work. It's not lightning fast, but it works. It's an EVDO connection provided by Sprint in my case, though others can get something similar from Verizon.

I ordered an EVDO modem from Verizon and a Kyocera KR2 EVDO router. The modem arrived on Friday and I began playing with it. There, I appeared to hit a wall. Initializing it required a Windows machine which I lack. Thankfully I managed borrow one from a friend and did the initialization there. Once done, I could simply plug the EVDO modem into my Ubuntu 8.10 system and connect to the network from the network connection tool. It just worked. Amazing.

Even more amazing was the fact that the router arrived before I visited the friend who loaned me the Windows machine. Once I had initialized the modem and tested it in my Ubuntu 8.10 laptop, I removed the KR2 from the box, plugged the USB modem into it, connected the router to the laptop, and plugged in the router's power supply. Once everyone's POST had completed and the EVDO modem had said "hello" again to Sprint, I was back online, this time through the router, which also acts as a WiFi hotspot.

In other words, except for the silly requirement that my EVDO modem be initialized under Windows (or a Mac), it all just worked. Perfectly. First time.

That never happens.

So now I get to do some speed testing with it and see how it actually performs. So far we know it is an acceptable alternative, but we've done no optimization about placing the modem, etc. I may also need to add an external antenna to increase the bandwidth, but I'll learn that with time.

Right now what I have is something we can use when my regular ISP's connection isn't working properly. And if we can live with the data rate and the 5GB/month cap, I may be able to say good-bye to my old ISP permanently. Give me a couple of months to figure all of that out. I promise to report on it here eventually.