Posted in Tech

Apple, Can You Hear Me Now?

I made a dreadful mistake when I bought my iPhone 5S. I bought the phone with a 16 GB capacity—even after the recommendation of the esteemed Robin Collins, a noted academic and all-around good guy who contemplates (and speaks and writes about) heady things like the relationship of science and religion. When he buys a device he pays the extra bucks for more memory–especially when the option of expanding the memory yourself does not exist (as in all things Apple)–because the point of the device is to hold your stuff. To this, I can add a resounding note to self: DUH.

I bought my iPhone 5S from my carrier, Verizon, at a time when they had shelved their happy habit of subsidizing phones.The helpful hint of the esteemed Dr. Collins did not echo in my cotton wool grey matter as I stood in the Verizon store on Mother’s Day, 2014, being wooed by an employee who threw in a free Mophie and lovingly applied a screen protector to my iPhone 5S with its paltry 16 GB.

Yes, I had the promise that I could upgrade to an iPhone 6 after six months. But when the iPhone 6 came out, I couldn’t see the point of making the switch. So I didn’t, and now I’m just about done paying full price for an iPhone even though I have been with Verizon for 15 years. Thanks, Verizon!*

More on the upgrade I missed: I reckon I should have checked to see how much of my 16 GB I was using when I first became eligible for the upgrade and before I started receiving the dread, daily message: “Your storage is almost full. You can manage your storage in settings.” Naturally, this message pops up when I’m taking a photo standing in the middle of Times Square and the Naked Cowboy happens by. (NB: He’s not really naked.)

Enter another science guy…my friend LT who works at JPL. LT is that lovely sort of science nerd who is always ready to talk about the latest Dr. Who. One day LT pulls from his pocket a marvel of human design, the lovely OnePlus One mobile phone. As much I as like the look of the Christian Louboutin Vampydoly Asymmetric Red Sole Pump in Black for $1095 (seen here), you’ll not see one on my foot because in all things sartorial, comfort is king for me and a shortened Achilles tendon is not an option. But show me a slick new device and I’m jelly-kneed, and a bit jelly-brained as well because my first thought is, “Oooh, pretty!” and not about the specs under the hood.

Turns out the OnePlus One is quite robust under the hood (if you can live with a non-removable battery) and quite reasonably priced. So I got one, took it to Verizon and BOOM. It’s a GSM phone that will not work over Verizon’s CDMA network. I knew about GSM vs CDMA before I bought the phone, but of course did not bother to check it out (oooh, pretty!). Besides, I wanted a phone that works in Europe without paying Verizon’s completely extortionary prices for the privilege.

Do I go to Europe frequently? Why, no, I don’t. But I intend to rectify this any year now. This past summer, I did go to Europe…France and England. I loved trekking down Oxford Street to the O2 store to get a SIM card. I loved, for a brief two weeks, having a UK phone number. (Of course in my case this is directly related to having lived in England as a teenager. Every teenager wants a phone, right?)

Back at home, I parted ways with my lovely OnePlus One–but not before it greeted me: Welcome to America! Reunited with my iPhone, I have been deleting apps, moving pictures elsewhere…yet still The Dread Message appears.

Let me take a little detour here and talk about why it is important to know (and remember) that there are simply some subjects that your significant other may not have the facility to handle. Simply put, know your significant other and trust that certain things Must Not Be Discussed.

My SO (aka: The Scout) has many wonderful qualities, but talking tech is not one of them–that is, if a discussion about cell phones and memory and data plans can even be considered true tech talk. It is possible that the Scout is so tech-adverse as to actually harbor a suspicion that mobile technology is a threat to our humanity—that it is eating away at true human interaction and replacing it with a simulacrum. In his mind, we are our true human selves in the wilderness, sitting around a campfire, wearing yesterday’s underwear and looking at the stars (he would allow a telescope in this instance).

I will confess that my screen-time habits are less than stellar. I wake up in the middle of the night and grab my phone. I’m not sure why it is critically important to me to read the New York Times “Your Morning Briefing” at 4:00 am, but I often do. The Scout rolls over and is met with an eerie lipid-green glow. He is sure that my soul is being sucked away. I try to tell him it’s not the technology that is a challenge to the soul–it’s the reading about Syrian refugees, unnecessary deaths, and all manner of impending doom…

In an effort to reunite with my OnePlus One, I’ve gone off the deep end researching other cell phone providers: the big guys and the MVNOs—Mobile Virtual Network Operators. I had to consider whether to leave Verizon so I could reunite with my ‘summer love’ phone. The short answer is No. Reasons:

  1. I get a nice 22% discount with Verizon thanks to my employer. (In other words, I’ve been grabbed by the short and curlies.)
  2. Verizon’s coverage is excellent, and it is especially good for the Scout—the self-proclaimed “Sultan of the Mojave Desert.”
  3. I have six people and nine devices on my plan. One of these six people is a true blue Verizon believer and his head will explode if I change to another carrier.
  4. Thanks to Verizon’s new data plan, we now share 18 GB of data for $100.00 per month.
  5. Verizon is throwing in 5 GB of cloud storage for “free.” That’s lovely. Too bad I don’t have room to download the app on my iPhone.

Once I realized that I will be wedded to Verizon for a while longer, I bought a tablet for The Scout (details below). He’s got an old flip phone, and this spiffy device gives him an easy way to check his e-mail or send a text when he’s out in the field. Not that he really wants to do either of these things, or the gazillion other things that are possible. Will he take a picture of the stars and upload it for all to see? No. He’ll insist you see the stars for yourself. I can’t say I disagree with him on that.

As for me and my summer love, I plan to play the field. I am going to buy a one month plan with an MVNO for my OnePlus One. More on that later.

*To be fair, Verizon has gone back to their two-year commitment pricing, so I could upgrade to another phone for less than full price.

Notes on the tablet: Costco is offering an LG GPad X8.3 for free (until 10/31/2015). “Free” meaning you pay $150.00 for the device and Costco sends you a $150.00 rebate to use at Costco. Of course, you pay Verizon an upgrade fee ($40.00–a bit nasty of them, I think), and you sign a contract for two years for the device ($10 a month). But this nifty little LG GPad has some nice specs: a USB port (rare for a tablet), expandable memory (Apple, hear that?), a stylus and a decent display. The CNET review is here.


Posted in Issues, Science, Self Care, Tech

An Advert: SonoCine

We now move to the medical arts, where things quite simply aren’t as they should be.

Dr. George Papanicolaou first presented his findings that cancerous cells could be found in a vaginal smear in 1928. Despite the efforts of the American Cancer Society to promote the use of Dr. Pap’s screening tool, it took until the mid 1960’s for the test to become part of a routine check-up.

I recently went for a routine mammogram.  The results came back with phrases like: “questionable central nodularity right cc view and axillary portion left breast MLO view.”  Since my previous mammogram results were not available to this radiologist, he suggested “spot compression views and ultrasound if necessary” for further evaluation.  My nurse practitioner called me to follow up.  I told her that I wasn’t coming back for spot compression, but that I was going for SonoCine screening.  (Here’s their website.)  She hadn’t heard of SonoCine, but agreed that more radiation probably wasn’t a good thing.

SonoCiné is an automated breast ultrasound system that has been cleared by FDA as an adjunctive examination to mammography. It is a complimentary examination and not a replacement for mammography.

Early studies indicate that, when used as an adjunct to mammography, SonoCiné may find smaller cancers than may not be found by mammography alone.

SonoCine isn’t covered by health insurance plans.  As far as I can tell, it hasn’t been embraced by the medical community on the scale that it deserves to be.  So, dear consumer, it is up to you to be informed and make some noise about this.

I don’t have breast cancer.  I do have a couple of fibroadnomas.  You can read about what they are over here.

For those of you who have had breast cancer or have a history of breast cancer in your family, I recommend SonoCine.  For those of you who have ‘dense breasts’ – I recommend SonoCine.

To the medical community: It’s time you embrace a tool that works.  To the insurance companies:  Do the right thing.  Besides, this might save you some money.

SoCal folks, you can get your SonoCine at the Hall Health and Longevity Center in Venice.  (Here’s their site.)

YouTube video here.

Special thanks to Nancy, whose cancer was found by SonoCine early.  Thanks for hoisting and waving the SonoCine flag.

Posted in Issues, Tech


I like Facebook. I like it more than MySpace. And though technical acumen is not my forte (how do I get an accent over that “e”?), I’m going to pass on some links for Facebook users that I found courtesy of someone u

Uh Oh—  I’ve tried to “save and continue editing” this post twice after putting in several links, and for some reason it isn’t working.  Did we really need to illustrate what I just said?

So just go here and you can read all about Facebook planning to open its files to Google Search, privacy issues, etc. (link courtesy of Susan; her picture illustrates the article).

Posted in Tech


I’m away from home on a visit to family members, so this post is coming to you courtesy of the dreaded dial-up. I love that it is called dial-up. Dial phones were on the way out when I was a kid, and the “princess phone” (with push buttons, of course) was all the rage. Dial-up was never really dial-up at all, it has always been (if I may coin a phrase) ‘tone-up.’ Now that I’m back to using tone-up for a few days, it isn’t as bad as you’d think. After all, if it’s tone-up or nothing, you’d settle for tone-up too.

On a related note (and I’ve blogged about this before), the icon for “save” is the floppy disk. It’s an anachronistic icon, but I bet it’ll be around a while.

Posted in Around Town, Tech, Uncategorized

Jacaranda Time and Caltech

Jacarandas at Caltech

It is May in Pasadena, and May is jacaranda time. The photo above doesn’t quite capture the fullness of their purple-y glory (camera phone, no direct sunlight), so I’m hoping that Eye Level will take up the mantle and post some photos of the nice ones at Caltech. This is the time of year to drive on Del Mar Boulevard (between Marengo on the west and maybe Wilson on the east) whether you need to or not (though do try to invent a reason…you can always hit the Trader Joe’s on Lake Avenue at Del Mar). What am I saying “drive”…that is SO last century! Heck, it is Bike Week here in Pasadena. Take your bike. The jacaranda are splendid.

Caltech: I read Watson’s account of the discovery of the double helix in a science-for-non-science-majors class in college. It is quite a compelling account, made even more real to me because they did the work at Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge, and I did a year of undergraduate work in Cambridge (at Homerton College– love that photo).

When I first visited Caltech, I burst out laughing when I saw a large rectangular shallow pool with a double helix on the bottom. The pool is just such a literal rendering of one of the great moments in scientific history. A most unusual (yes, I fear tacky) homage–more like a construction project than an art installation. Here’s a photo of the whole thing. Below is a detail photo: Double Helix Pool

Finally, remember the good old days when we learned the metric system, because soon our whole nation would be switching over to it so that we could be in synch with the rest of the world? That’s what they told me in sixth grade. This map makes me laugh. Only Myanmar and Liberia (those bastions of democracy!) join us in being non-metric. We have this.

A photo taken on San Pasquale just west of Caltech’s campus:Go Metric!

US Metric Association

Posted in Tech, Uncategorized

MySpace & Time on the Internet

This is a tale of how you can spend a whole day doing something on the Internet that you didn’t mean to do.

Tim and I went to the Hollywood Bowl to see Al Jarreau and George Benson, but the real delight of the night was the opening act, Raul Midon.

So I go to his website and there is a contest. If you add Raul to your top eight on MySpace, you can enter the contest and win a trip to Europe.

I have a MySpace page but I don’t really ever do anything with it. At this writing, I have precisely one MySpace friend…which cracks me up.

So I dink around on MySpace and try to figure out how to add Raul to my “top eight.” I presume this means top eight friends, which means I have to go to Raul’s page and ask him if he’ll be my friend, right?

All this takes time, as does my side trip into exploring how to make my MySpace page look better. I manage to get some code on there that gives me white polka dots on an orange background, but I still have to get that stupid ad off it (if that is even possible).

The hours from noon to three vanish. I know a little bit more about MySpace than I did before. And maybe I’ll win a trip to Europe.

I’m just not sure if the return on my three hours invested will yield much. Do I have to spend more time on MySpace to make those three hours worthwhile?

Posted in Tech

Ever So Pleased

Today I got a new toy–a wireless network for my house. For years, all at-home computing has been done in a corner of the living room, the corner where the cable comes up through the floor and into the cable modem. The corner of the living room is a fine place, but my house is small, so the living room is the family room is the “great room” (who made that word couplet up?). In other words, when you’re not in bed, in the bathroom, or in the kitchen, you are in the one L-shaped room that is living and dining room. And that’s where the tv is.

Maybe my Zen quotient is low, but I find it difficult to really focus on something else when the tv is on and making noise. “Mute” is my favorite button on the remote. Now, I will be able to escape to the bedroom if I want to surf in quiet. I will be able to go in the yard when the weather is fine.

It’s nice to be a Mac user. You can choose your level of geekiness, rather than having it be thrust upon you (PC users know what I mean). It was ever so easy to set up AirPort Extreme, that cute little flying-saucer-bundle-of-Internet-love, and I am ever so pleased to be sitting on the couch instead of my gawdawful desk chair as I post this.