Sunday, August 28, 2016

Holy shit, life just happened.

For the three netizens who viewed my blog regularly, I apologize for my complete lack of postings, but holy shit did life happen. It happened so much, I don't even know where to start to be honest. 

Dada! 
I guess i'll dive right in, first off, shortly after I started this blog up my wife hit me with some amazingly surprising news; we were having another baby. After the birth of my second daughter, we decided it was best that I get 'snipped' and I did. I truly was very surprised by the news, probably as surprised as my wife. That was towards the end of April, and here we are, late August with a little baby boy due in early October. We've had all of the genetic testing done that we could, and the results are positive, the basic genetic screenings all came back negative. As well as the testing for Osteogensys Imperfecta. I don't know how we did it, but we've dodged the OI bullet three times, not bad considering it was a 50% chance for each kid. But this time we are truly done. I guess in that respect my wife and I are compatible. 

That's all for now.
-IronSchramm out. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

NSFW: I'm on a boat! (SpaceX Remix)

Came across this video and just wanted to share, so funny!


I'm a huge fan of Elon Musk and the work he's done at Solar City, Tesla and most of all Space Exploration Technologies; SpaceX. This is a remix of the landing of the Falcon 9 that put the CRS-8 resupply mission into orbit. This video is just so perfect and beautiful, I love you internet!

Hearing Impaired users review of the Pebble. (My EDC; Part 2)

Pebble Time and hearing aid users guide

Before I dive into my review of the Pebble smart watch, allow me to set a bit of a back story. Soon after transferring into the Systems Engineering department for my company in 2013 it became clear that I would be in a 24x7 on-call role periodically. This meant text messages or phone calls at any time during that period. This presents a bit of a challenge for me as I'm hearing impaired, when my hearing aids come out at night, I have blissful silence, which can be both welcoming and an annoyance. Honestly I thought setting the LED camera flash to blink when a message or call was received would be sufficient since i'm a very light sleeper. This worked during my first few on-call rotations. But then disaster struck, One night I slept through several alerts for a major outage at 1am on a Monday morning. I finally woke up around 4am when I happened to check the phone, I absolutely died when I saw the missed notifications. Lucky my company understood, (they were able to contact a coworker for assistance) but I felt it was a failure on my part. So I began a quest to find a device that would wake me in my sleep I didn't want to rely on my wife either as I hate disturbing her when she's sleeping.

When I began researching such a device the Pebble quickly came to mind, I known of it already, mainly because of it's Kickstart success. Unfortunately it wasn't clear what sort of alerting came with various notifications. Basically, did it vibrate when you received a notification and was the vibration powerful enough that I would wake up. So I kept this device in my notes and continued searching. I found several band type devices as well but again it wasn't clear if they would wake me either. Plus I wanted something with a few more features and as a power wheelchair user a step/fitness tracker is useless. The Apple Watch was announced, but so too was the battery life, and that was instantly a no go for me as I needed something that lasted many days, not just one. One afternoon in the office I ran into a co-worker who had an original Pebble, we got to talking about it and he let me try it on and show me how powerful the vibration notifications were.  I took the plunge and purchased an Original Pebble on my way home that evening from a local retailer, even though the Time series was already available.

I will admit, the original Pebble face was a bit large for my wrist, but I adapted quickly and purchased a new band that fit me better. I bought the device about a week before going on-call and linked it to my personal smart phone to get a feel for the interface and how the device itself worked. I will say, I have not missed an on-call notification since purchasing the Pebble. I did end up having a few display issues about 3 months after I bought it but Pebble Support was fantastic and had a replacement device in my mailbox in less than a week.

Original Pebble SmartwatchAbout a year after purchasing the Pebble I upgraded to the Pebble Time after coming across an amazing deal for a new device. To be honest, I feel like the Pebble Time is the first 'true' Pebble device. The Original Pebble was more of a proof of concept and the design, although I wore it for a year, just didn't appeal to me. I used it because I had too, and I'm not sure I would have purchased it for any other reason. But the Pebble Time is simply gorgeous! I am so happy I upgraded, not that the Original was bad in any way but the Time is so much more refined even before you talk about it's functionality. From the sleek bezel around the color e-ink display to the new watch band material that's nicer on my skin! Even the magnetic charger is better, moving the charging port from side of the device to the underneath significantly improves how easily it charges. To me, it's what the original Pebble should have been.

I gave my wife my Original Pebble and she uses it daily, but she's not as much of a power user as I am. That said, we both get about a week of battery life from our devices. The Timeline interface took a bit to get used to coming form the original Pebble to the Time. I upgraded around the same timeframe that the Time firmware update hit the original Pebble so now the work almost identically.

As someone with a hearing impairment, this device is simply fantastic, as I stated above I cannot hear any of my phones audible alerts when I remove my hearing aids at night. And sleeping with even just one hearing aid in is insanely uncomfortable, so that is not really an option. At first I would sync the Pebble to my work on-call phone (iPhone 5s) and forward all alerting to the watch. The vibrations are strong enough that it's never failed to wake me up during a work emergency no matter how deep my sleep is. After I gained full confidence in the device it slowly gained more duties. The second responsibility it took on was as my morning alarm clock.

Prior to the Pebble I had a standard clock radio, it was set between two FM stations so that it would turn on to VERY VERY loud static. I could barely hear that but it was just enough to wake me. I decided to try using the watch as an alarm clock, I used the watch and alarm clock radio in tandem for about a week. Now the alarm clock radio is tucked away in our closet and the watch has truly earned it's place on my wrist. I love that I can customize alarms, for instance a weekday alarm vs a weekend only alarm. I set my weekday alarm and  don't even think about it as I know my Pebble's got my back! I also use the alarm for a quick afternoon power nap. I've also started using an application called Morpheuz which tracks my sleeping patterns. I'm not sure how accurate it is, but it's an interesting over view of how well I sleep. I haven't added any other applications up to this point.

In my previous post entitled Read Me Stories I discussed my love of music and audiobooks. The Pebble includes a built in Music application to perform basic functions when listing to Audible or iTunes Music such as play, pause, fast forward, reverse and volume control. I heavily use these features when driving my van, the ability to control my smartphone and car stereo from my wrist is very handy when you have short arms! I can also accept phone calls as well as see notifications on my wrist with as much ease as looking down at my speedometer.  When i'm not driving my van i'm essentially one handed (keeping one hand on the control stick of my power wheelchair when moving) it's nice to be able to simply tap a button on my wrist to control music or phone interactions without having to stop my chair, grab my phone, etc, etc. The Pebble works very well as a quick way to interface with your smart phone.

You might be wonder when I charge it if i'm using it as an alarm clock. I work from home so in the morning when I get up I usually take off the watch and let it charge until about lunch time. It never drops below 90% when i'm not using it for on-call duties. When I'm on-call, I keep the charger at my desk and top it off during the day. But I have in the past gone the full 7 day on-call rotation without charging it and had about 20% battery life left. It's good to know in a pinch I wouldn't need to charge it so often.

On a final note, just last week a new firmware update was released which added my new favorite feature; selectable vibrations. Basically you can change the vibration patterns for certain alerts. For instance; an SMS message can have a different vibration pattern than say a phone call. I've since set my alarm clock pattern to the longest pattern available. I do hope that Pebble builds on this feature and allows you to create your own pattern like I can on iOS, currently your limited to a handful of predefined patterns. These longer patterns give me even more piece of mind that the device will work great for me and I can quickly dismiss certain alerts without even checking the watch.

Thats about all I can think to say about the Pebble at this time, i've been working on this post for almost a week now, i'm thinking it's time to publish it.

Is there anything I missed that you might be curious about? I'm interested in what functionality you enjoy most about your Pebble, are there any features you find useful that I didn't cover I'd love to see your comments and suggestions..

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

SPOILER ALERT::: Bitch Nuts! (My thoughts on the Walking Dead Season 6 finale)

Whatever you thought about that ending (more on that in a minute), one thing is for certain: The Walking Dead knows how to deliver an intense episode without anyone dying or fighting. Hell, I was anxious watching Abraham drive that Winnebago because he wouldn’t keep his damn eyes on the road. One of the things that made this episode so good was the sound. The very beginning had me remembering The Dark Knight and that slow, two or three note build up every time Joker was about to come on screen. And then the whistling. Holy shit the whistling. We didn’t have to see anyone die, and yet right up until the end (more in a minute, I promise) it felt like the whole world was going to crash down on these people at any moment.
Really, just look at Rick. Back at Alexandria, Rick was big man on campus. Except for the fact that everyone wanted to go to Hilltop despite him trying to tell each person to stay back. At one point, Rick looked around like “does anyone here actually listen to me?” It was hilarious.
But I digress. Back at Alexandria, Rick was exuding confidence. So was Carl. This was a quick trip to the Hilltop (well, about as quick a trip one can take when society has fallen to the dead) and every savior they had seen that far died at the mere sight of their group. Seriously, it was like cutting butter with a hot knife. Carol wasn’t even sure she could kill anyone, and those Saviors burned to a crisp with no problem. It was like they locked the door themselves.
But then, Trevor Phillips showed up, and Rick was fucked. What the bitch, indeed, Abraham.
I don’t know how the Saviors knew Rick’s group would be coming that direction at that time, but one thing was sure: They knew where Rick’s group was going. Remember: At the beginning, Rick was all confidence. After that first encounter, cracks began to form. Rick warned Trevor’s group: “So I don’t have to kill any of you. Any more of you,” and “Do you want this to be your last day on Earth?” And what happened? Just like back at Alexandria where no one would listen, Trevor threw Rick off. “Be kind to one another.” Hot damn that was creepy.
There were only a few routes to the Hilltop from Alexandria, and the Saviors knew them all. The second road block was a little bigger than the first, and Sasha and Rick and the gang had an epiphany: There were a lot more Saviors than they thought. HILLTOP, YOU HAVE SOME ‘SPLAININ’ TO DO. Gregory sold the Saviors as a pesky band of thugs that hassled them for their shit. Rick’s plan was going south so fast.
The next roadblock was even bigger than the second, and Rick and his gang didn’t even bother to get out of the van. Just back it up. Then they found the Walkers chained up, with Michonne’s hair and Daryl’s arrows on/in two of the walkers. The message was clear, and Rick was shook even further. His plan was falling apart, and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do. The Saviors shot at their feet, and got them to go through the walker-wall. They were being herded, like cattle to the slaughter.
The last roadblock (I believe, I may have the order mixed) was a giant stack of logs blocking the road, with Trevor on the other side. “I hope you have been kind to one another.” Holy shit. I was at the edge of my seat. Oh, and they dropped that dude from the overpass; and the group recognized him as the guy getting beat up in the first group. Message delivered. They truly were neck deep up shit creek with their mouths wide open.
Then Eugene had the brilliant plan to split up: The Saviors were expecting the Winnebago, not the group. I think Eugene lasted all of five minutes before the Saviors got him.
When Trevor finally introduced us to Negan, the whole gang was assembled: Rick, Carl, Abraham, Sasha, Rosita, Eugene, Maggie, Glenn, Daryl, Michonne, and Aaron. Negan gave one of the best monologue speeches I have heard in recent memory, and went to work ordering at the table. And then, it happened: They showed us Negan bashing someone’s head in from the receiving end’s perspective, and the season ended. BITCH NUTS THAT WAS AWESOME.

Because of Negan’s remark that they should “feed the boy’s other eye to his father” if anyone does anything, I don’t think Rick or Carl are dead. And because Maggie is sick, she wouldn’t be a good enough punishment (though she probably would be if Negan knew she’s pregnant).  In the comic, he kills Glenn - because of that and their earlier fakeout, I don’t think it’s Glenn (because it would make the cliffhanger even cheaper if they do what we expect). Also, he gave Glenn his “one free pass” and killing him, even apparently randomly, after that might not look good.
In the same vein of not doing what we’d expect, I don’t think it’ll be Eugene or Aaron. That leaves Michonne, Daryl, Abraham, Sasha, and Rosita. I don’t think it’ll be Michonne or Daryl because they’re fan favorites. I don’t think Rosita would be anyone most people care all that much about. So that leaves us with Sasha and Abraham, both of whom (though mostly Abraham) had just started thinking about the future. My guess is it’ll be Abraham, both to give Sasha someone new to mourn and also because, well, as a large, strong, clearly unafraid person he’d make a good kill as punishment. Feel free to argue with me, though, frankly there’s not a lot of directions they can take this that will surprise me.
As for the cliffhanger itself, it was annoying, but honestly I’m not irritated about it like a lot of people are. Yeah, there’s a lot of buildup for something that won’t be finished until next season, and you better believe it won’t be the first thing we see next season.

A few more thoughts;
1. Trevor Phillips was such a good Savior, I’m almost sad they didn’t save him for the next bad guy of the show. That mustache alone could move mountains. Lets be real here: At least some of Rick’s group is going to fight and win Negan, because that’s how shows work (Unless The Walking Dead is taking that “new show every eight episodes” mantra to heart and is starting over fresh with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and in that case I’m intrigued). Trevor could have been the leader of a competing community, and would have owned the role. Ah well, that’s just how bad Negan is, if his second in command is that terrifying, Negan is going to be something else.
2. Rick kept telling Maggie that they would make it because they always made it and everything always worked out because they were together and that’s all that mattered. Yeah, about that. When Negan began picking who to hit, it was clear that all of the remaining original cast (from the first few seasons) was present and accounted for. One of them would be a goner, and it wasn’t going to work out and be okay like Rick said. This was one of the few times where shit actually was about to hit the fan.
But who could it be? Negan told the Saviors that if anyone moved, to dig out Carl’s good eye and feed it to Rick. I know the comics had him kill Glenn and no one got up because of shock, but I’m not so sure about here: Glenn practically ripped his restraints off when he saw Maggie not feeling well. Abraham had just told Sasha that he was ready to do something big with her like Glenn and Maggie. The entire reason Rick is still alive is because of his kids. If Sasha, Maggie, or Carl were on the receiving end of Lucille, then Abraham, Glenn, or Rick would have reacted, so I think they are safe. The only people there without some deep connection to another person lined up (besides Rick and Michonne, but that’s just starting, really), are Michonne, Daryl, Eugene, Rosita, and Aaron. Eugene gave Rick the recipe to make bullets. Rosita was basically on her own after Abraham so brutally dumped her. Michonne is shaping up to be the Andrea of the Comics. I was wrong before to think it would be Tara or Heath (where the hell are they), but I think it’s either Glenn (and Kirkman lied to us), Daryl (and they all lied to us on Talking Dead), Rosita, Eugene, or Abraham. In the comics, Abraham got a bolt through the head, and in the show that fate was given to Denise. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Damnit so so much! I can't wait until October!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

My Every Day Carry (Part 1)

I wanted to start a series of posts covering some of the items I have on me at all times, or at least on my power chair. If you have ever been in a wheelchair, for even a short duration of time, you quickly learn that pant pockets are practically useless. Reason is being in a sitting position bends the pockets and makes it difficult to put items like a wallet or larger cell phones into them. So generally you'll see folks who use a wheelchair for mobility with some sort of bag. I think all but one of my wheelchair's i've had came from the factory with a bag on them. But those bags are mostly useless too, at least for me. My type IV Osteogenesis Imperfecta makes me very short in stature, thus short arms. A backpack style bag doesn't work very well for my personal items, although during family outings to the zoo or a theme park my chair quickly becomes a pack mule. Just last weekend I connected a wagon to my chair using a steel c-clamp and was pulling around three children, myself and a large backpack of various supplies; my wife and I have really learned to put my power chair to good use, and the kids enjoyed it!
Condor 127 Deployment Bag

So lets get started, I plan to review several items individually, including my chair itself. Today I want to start with my bag, as I feel it's the basis for everything i'm able to carry with me. I've tried many types of bags and with each wheelchair I have (A new one every 7 years or so, I keep them a long time) usually requires a new bag that will fit some place that's easily accessible for me. That said, I currently use a Condor 127 Deployment Bag. I've removed the shoulder strap seen in the picture and loop the clips around the arm rest so that it fits between myself and my seat cushion. It's also buckled to the armrest so it's concealed as well as secure. I've designated each pouch on the bag, there are four, for specific purposes.

Top down view of my Condor 127 bag
The main large center pouch carries miscellaneous items like pens, USB cables, and what I consider larger items, say a USB battery charger such as the one I carry; Anker Astro E5. That battery charger alone takes up over 50% of the space in the large pouch of the Condor 127, that said the largest compartment isn't very big. There is no pocket on the back of this bag so that part is against the arm of my chair (see image below). The pocket nearest me is just large enough to hold my wallet and securely zip shut. Security was very important to me as my wallet would be in the bag, luckily I am able move my seat cushion over a bit to add space for the bag to go between it and the arm rest. The pocket on the right hand side of the image holds utility items, like my flashlight and a mini-multitool, I plan to review those at a later date. Also the zipper pull string has a snap hook that I use to hold my car keys and anything else you might attach to a snap hook, in the past i've carried shopping bags and bluetooth speakers. The pouch on the left hand side is inaccessible for me, so I do not carry any items in it. To be honest I don't feel it's wasted space as i've never had a need to place anything in it. I just recently attached a J5 Tactical flashlight to the straps on the bag, i'm able to basically use it as a headlight in dark situations and so far it's worked quite well.

External view of my Condor bag
As you can see from the images this bag has seen better days. It's been with me everywhere I've gone since I purchased my current power chair in July of 2013. But it has held up very well, all things considered. I highly endorse this product for any wheelchair user, especially for the current price of $20.

A few points to consider when selecting a bag. You know you and your needs best, just because your chair comes with a bag (or doesn't) don't let that limit you. Examine your chairs configuration look at different areas you can attach a bag too. Don't be afraid to try different things and think outside the box. I went through about three different bags until I came across the Condor, including the bag from my previous power wheelchair. It just wouldn't work on the new one, there was no place for it to be easily accessed. Originally the Condor was on the outside of my chair, although not impractical it wasn't the best of options, if I left something unzipped items would fall out. One morning, while cleaning my chair it dawned on me that I could squeeze just enough room between the arm rest and the seat cushion for it, and well, the rest is history.

Thanks for reading, and I would love to read your comments on what bags you've tested and use.

Disclaimer: I personally purchased all the products mentioned in this post, I received no compensation to endorse them or link them. 



Thursday, March 31, 2016

Leaving the beast.

Leaving Facebook has been an interesting experiment. I remember where I was when I signed up, early morning, summer of 2009 from the kitchen table at my little brothers house. My wife and I crashed at his place for whatever reason, and I had woken up before any one else. I was reading the news and came across an article about Facebook and the rest is history.

I know, I know... But this time I mean it.. REALLY!
I had a MySpace page but was never really 'into' it, and Geocities before that. But Facebook was different, something about it drew me in.  Although I wouldn't call it an obsession, I did spend a majority of my online time there. If I wasn't on Feedly, I was on Facebook. I have never taken it as seriously as some, I also had a few rules I tried to stick too. Never post about my employer unless it was completely positive, never air my dirty laundry, never post about politics and generally keep it light hearted. I've slipped a few times, posting about Sprint or Apple which seems to draw out the critics and fanboys.  Which is one of my reasons for leaving, I understand posting publicly is an invitation for discussion but Facebook seems to provide people something to hide behind, expressing opinions they would not generally state in person. Or worse yet, when you personally know a person, see their Facebook updates and realize they are completely fake and false. Yet they receive an outpouring of support or praise and you just want to say something, but you refrain. Over time, my usage increased I would checked it several times a day, it's installed on all of my devices and if my browser was opened, so was Facebook. I just felt like I have more important ways to spend my time, but it's been tougher to escape then I thought.

Around the time of Star Wars: The Force Awakens theatrical release I decided to deactivate my account until I saw the movie in an attempt to avoid spoilers. We ended up seeing SW the Saturday morning after it came out. I ended up leaving my account deactivated for a few more days. But for some reason I reactivated it. This week, after a discussion with someone where I was practically berated for not seeing a post I decided enough was enough. I locked down the security on my page and turned off messenger chat for all users. I've been trying to migrate any outside services to a Google sign on API instead of Facebook's, and have done that with most of my major services. I have yet to uninstall the app off my phone and tablet, but I haven't opened it in several days. I was out with the family last night, and found myself wanting to post something I thought was funny, but I didn't. I took the picture and laughed with my wife and kids instead. It was just as fulfilling if not more so. A few thoughts have crossed my mind this morning that would make a funny post, but again I refrained. I feel like each day will get easier, i'll factor in Facebook less and less in my daily activities to a point where it's no more than an afterthought.

I don't completely despise the site, honestly I've found much joy in it. Laughing at funny posts and seeing what my friends and family are up to. But when is it too much? I think the answer to that varies with everyone but for me the amount of time I spent personally felt like too much. And for some folks it's the only way they get any social interaction, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

And I'll be honest, i'm not completely disconnected from that world. My wife still spends a lot of time on there, and keeps me updated on items that might interest me. And in a way, that was also part of my moving off of it. It does give my wife and I something to talk about, but many times in the past I'd already knew about a post before she did so the conversation didn't get any farther than "Yeah I saw it...". But now we can engage in those conversations for the first time. After almost 12 years of marriage you start to run out of things to talk about at times, so maybe this is for the best, for more reasons then I originally intended. Perhaps I give myself an hour or so to look at the site each week or maybe one day I'll wake up and its not something I feel like I need to do any longer.

Either way, I do feel somewhat liberated, as always, thanks for reading!


Until we meet again Zuck!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Read me stories....

What better way into someone's psyche than a glance into their library? I love books but can never find the time to sit down and read. Several years ago a friend of mine turned me onto Audible, i've been a subscriber of their Gold Membership since March 2014. The membership provides a credit per month redeemable towards any audiobook, unused credits roll over to the next month.  As I read through my thousand plus RSS feeds each day, any books of interest I find is added to my Wish List which is currently at 66 items.

Shot of my current library
Much of my listening is done while driving, at work or anytime I'm able to throw on my bluetooth headphones. I really enjoy biographies about businesses and tech tycoon's, modern or historic, as well as the occasional fiction/non-fiction stories. Anyways, i'll list them out here, they are in no particular order I recommend each of them. I'm currently 20 hours into a 32 hour biography titled Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw, it's an incredibly detailed look into Mr. Carnegie and his businesses.

These books have been purchased and are in various states of completion, I tend to jump around between a few books at a time, for instance I've been listening to the Carnegie audiobook since about November but have completed several books below since that time.

Books in progress:

  • UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record by Leslie Kean
  • One Second After by William R. Forstchen
  • Law 101 by Jay M. Feinman
  • The Personal MBA Master the Art of business by Josh Kaufman
  • 52 Things Daughters need from their Dads by Jay Payleitner


Completed Biographies:
  • Empire: Howard Hughes The Life, Legend and Madness by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele
  • Elon Must by Ashlee Vance
  • Becoming Steve Jobs by Rick Tetzeli and Brent Schlender
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  • Failure is not an option by Gene Kranz
  • Wizard the Life and Times of Nikola Tesla by Marc J. Seifer
  • I am Spock by Leonard Nimoy
  • The Grand Slam; Bobby Jones, America and the Story of Golf by Mark Frost
  • American Sniper by Scott McEwan, Chris Kyle and Jim Defelice

Other titles i've completed since joining Audible:
  • Where's my Jetpack by Daniel H. Wilson
  • Marvel Comics the Untold Story by Sean Hoye
  • Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that defined a generation by Blake J. Harris
  • The Innovators by Walter Isaacson
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • The fast track to your Technician Class Ham Radio License by Michael Burnette
Screen cap from my wish list on Audible.

As you can see history, biographies, and space exploration are a large portion of my library. I hope this gives anyone who might read this a bit of insight into me.

Thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: I personally purchased all the products mentioned in this post, I received no compensation to endorse them or link them.