Oh, right. Loot Crate is a thing.

A couple of years ago Loot Crate announced they were doing Star Trek “mission crates.” If you ordered a year of the crates (6 boxes of Star Trek related stuff) you would get a discount on a year of CBS All Access as a bonus.

I signed up on 8/23/17 and the first crate (according to my email) was shipped almost a year later. Turns out, Loot Crate had a lot of trouble creating these things. And while they included some fun t-shirts it was mostly crap I didn’t need. I got a few more of the crates and cancelled my subscription.

Then I forgot this thing ever existed. And forgot that I had paid for a year of crates (though I had paid for them 2 years ago). Forgotten about them until yesterday when the 3 remaining crates arrived on the same day. I was supposed to get them, according to the names of the crates, in July, Sept, and Nov of... 2018.


Better late than never, I suppose. The only wrinkle is that the fine folks at Loot Crate didn’t tell me these were coming. They just showed up. Why is that a problem? Each box includes a t-shirt, which is good. But I selected my size 2 years ago when I was much heavier so I went with XXL. I’m an XL now, and these fancy shirts (and I do quite like them) are way too big. Bummer.

I’ve reached out to Loot Crate support, so I’m hoping I can exchange them for a smaller size. Though the response of “we are working on our shipping process so these late deliveries don’t happen again” that I got doesn’t make me think Loot Crate is great at actually reading the email folks send them (and that lots of people are contacting them about these very late boxes randomly showing up now!).

The Best Books I read in 2019

Tomorrow is Christmas, which means you might be looking for a few last minute presents for the kind of important people in your life. Why not get them an ebook? You can buy it at any time and it is delivered instantly! Plus, you can tell people you scheduled the delivery weeks ago so people don’t think you forgot to get them something.

I read 71 books this year and as is my tradition I will share the ones that I deemed five star worthy. Surely, any person who were to recieve any of these books as a present would be very lucky indeed.


Like books about real stuff? I generally don’t, but I did read a couple that I very much enjoyed this year.

  • Underground by Will Hunt - I often idly wonder about what’s happened beneath my feet. Will is one of those brave souls who actually goes to find out.
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe - Turns out this book that won lots of awards and everyone says is excellent... is very good indeed. And not at all what I expected.


It seems to me that novellas are making a comeback. A bunch of publishers are pushing them, which resulted in me reading a few this year. The great thing about novellas is that they aren’t too long but you still feel like you’ve read something of substance.

Don’t start here

Since I’m a big nerd I, of course, read lots entries in series. I enjoyed all of these, but you shouldn’t start any of these series with this installment:


  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk - One of the odder mysteries I’ve read...and one that was very well written. Also, what a great title!
  • Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia - I enjoy books that force me out of my worldview in interesting ways, and this one certainly does that. And the main character is a hoot.
  • Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett - Do you like books that have detailed magic systems? I do! And this book has that AND a pretty exciting story. Bonus.
  • Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller - One of the more exciting (and depressing) sub-generes of Science Fiction is CliFi (Climate Fiction). These books spin tales about a future shaped by climate change. This book does that very well without being heavy handed and includes a polar bear.
  • Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker - Another great title! K.J. Parker is on my list of authors whose work I just buy, but this book is a great intro for anyone interested in trying out his work.
  • A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine - A great modern space opera, and another book is coming soon (so you should start here).

Do we need Healthcare reform?

Last month I went to my doctor's office and ended up in the hospital (the whole story is here).

Here's a list of the high points of the care (which was very good!) I received:

  • The emergency room
  • A few EKGs
  • Some medication
  • Saw a few doctors for a few minutes each
  • Stayed overnight for observation
  • Had a stress test
  • Bunch of lab work

How much do you think 1 night in the hospital with pretty minimal usage of services costs?


I'm not paying that much since I have health insurance and they have agreements that mean they are only paying a fraction of that cost... but if I didn't have health insurance I'd be screwed.

I probably wouldn't have went to the doctor's in the first place and my heart would just have kept on beating oddly until I had heart failure or a stroke. Fun!

These drugs are making my heart beat correctly

HeartyheartYesterday I woke up early to go for a 4 mile run. Usually I run after work, but I wanted to get my run in early just in case I ended up in the hospital. Gotta get my 10,000 steps!

You see, I had my followup cardiologist's appointment at 9am and I was worried it would go along the same lines as my last appointment.

I'm happy to report that I didn't end up in the hospital after my appointment. My cardiologist told me that I'm very healthy, other than my arrhythmic heart, and that this isn't something that people die from. It is annoying, but not deadly.

That was nice!

He was also yawning a lot as he spoke to me. I sense he isn't a morning person.

But how does one live with an out of rhythm heart? Turns out I have two options:

* Take a few pills every day for the rest of my life.
* Let them stick catheters in my heart, burn some flesh, and hope that stops the arrhythmia.

I opted for the drugs for the time being as I've been in aFib frequently over the last few weeks but popping a pill pretty much stops it. I'm hopeful that taking a couple of pills regularly will solve it for the time being (and so far it is! Though I've only taken the new combo twice thus far).

I'm on a drug called flecainide, which Wikipedia tells me is the 273rd most commonly prescribed medicine in America. It is a sodium channel blocker that stops arrhythmic heart beats which is pretty cool. Interestingly, though, one of the potentail side effects is making your arrhythmia worse, so that's not great. It seems to happen in very few people but I will be ever vigilant!

If the drugs stop working, or I get tired of taking two pills twice a day, then my heart will get ablated! Basically, they burn away some groups of nerves in the heart and that SHOULD make the arrhythmia stop.

My doc tells me that for about 85% of folks it works on the first try. And if it doesn't work you try try again and that bumps up the effectiveness to 90%. The only downside (other than surgery) is the heart heals itself. So it is possible for the flesh to repair itself and for my heart to go back to its oddly beating ways.

Overall, I'm pretty glad my heart conditions aren't more serious because while the doc was very knowledgeable and answered all my questions he wouldn't actually recommend one way over the other. I thought it wise to wait until after the holidays to schedule surgery, but I think come February my heart will be burnt from the inside.

Current heart rate: 47 BPM. And I'm in Sinus Rhythm.

These sites have been open on my iPhone for weeks

I don't presume to know how you browse the Internet, but I think of it as a buffet. I can grab a few things from the grill, maybe add a cinnamon bun and a slice of ham, and then go back for more incongruous combinations until I'm way overfull. But kind of happy.

That's the Internet to me, and as part of my browsing I sometimes come across an article that I think is worth sharing. Sometimes I pooped out a tweet with the link but other times I think, "No! This is worthy of being posted on my blog where no one but I will see it when I'm reading through my archives in 10 years (10 years ago I was a 100 pounds heavier than I am today!).

Anyway, here's my link dump:

8 miles with a faulty heart

As I mentioned in my last (very long) post I went for an 8 mile run yesterday. I wasn't going to any time records, I just wanted to complete the run. And I did!

The weather was great, and I even paused to take this picture as I was overwhelmed by how pretty it was:

View this post on Instagram

Seen on my run today.

A post shared by Scott McNulty (@blankbaby) on

A good reminder to stop and take a moment, even if you're covered in sweat and 6 miles into an 8 mile run that you just want to be over.

I went to the ER and all I got was two heart conditions

Many years ago when I was in highschool I was at home in the apartment I grew up in, alone and watching television. I don't recall what I was watching, but I remember the phone call I was about to get very clearly.

The phone rang. I answered.

Keep in mind, kids, this was well before everyone had a cell phone.

It was my mother. Not an unusual thing to happen, since at that time she was in a relationship with a guy who lived not too far from us and would often stay at his place.

This call, however, was a bit unusual.

"Scott, don't worry but I'm in the emergency room."

Reader, I worried.

My mom had been feeling under the weather for a week or so, and went to see her doctor. The doctor examined her for a bit and said, "How did you get here?" She told him that she had driven herself there. His response?

"I'm driving you to the emergency room."

It wasn't the flu, but rather a heart attack!

She had a stent put in and lived to tell about it (until cancer got her).

Anyway, this has been a sort of running joke with me. I'll go to the doctor and say to Marisa, "I bet I'll end up in the emergency room!"

I'm the Cassandra of jokes

I've been wearing a smartwatch that measures my heart-rate for years now. And my heartrate has been pretty stable... until a couple of weeks ago when my average heartrate suddenly went up significantly.

I thought this odd, so I fished out Marisa's blood-pressure monitor and took my blood-pressure. It was fine, but this little icon appeared. I didn't know what it meant, so I Googled it.

That little icon stands for "Irregular heartbeat detected" and the manual suggested that I go see my doctor.

Not troubling at all, blood-pressure monitor.

To the PCP OMG

I called my PCP (who I had never actually visited before. I know, I know) and asked for an appointment. I was told they were taking appointments for the end of November. I didn't think waiting that long was a good idea, so I explained my situation. The office coordinator agreed and made me an appointment for last Wednesday (I called on Monday).

I showed up at the office, saw the doctor and explained my tale. He hooked me up to his EKG machine and said, "Yep! You have atrial fibrillation." He, and his nurse, asked me if I felt light headed or anything. I was honest and said I felt fine. In fact, I had run 4 miles that very morning!

They were impressed.

The doctor didn't seem too worried. He explained that the biggest risk with afib is that a blood clot could form in the heart and if it dislodges it’ll go straight to my brain and I'd have a stroke.

Not troubling at all, doctor.

He followed that up by telling me that I am in the lowest risk pool for that to happen. He prescribed a beta blocker to slow my heart rate down and told me to call a cardiologist.

I asked if I had to change anything in my life and he said, "Nope! You can still run as long as it doesn't make you feel lightheaded."

I was relieved that there was a reason for the change and while it was serious, it wasn't deadly.

I picked up my prescription (do you know they don't write you a prescription anymore? It just magically appears at the pharmacy! Who knew?) and headed home to call the cardiologist.

They didn't have a free appointment until Nov. 11th, so I made the appointment and asked that if something opened up sooner to please let me know.

Since it was about 12:30pm at this point I went to work with the intention of grabbing lunch and working the rest of the day.

As I walked into Wawa (a frequent destination of mine) my phone rang. It was the cardiologist's office. Seems an appointment opened up today, and would I want to see a doctor in 40 minutes?

Thinking this was a very rare occurrence I agreed and hastened to the doctor's office (after grabbing a wrap for lunch).

They should soundproof these rooms

I arrived at the office to see Dr. Goldberg. A tech came in and took my bloodpressure and do my second EKG of the day. She had me take off my shirt to do the EKG, which makes sense, and she told me that Dr. Goldberg liked people to take their pants off as well. But I could wait until she brought me a robe to remove my pants.Scottrobe


She brought a robe. Off came my pants and I sat in a tiny room by myself waiting the arrival of Dr. Goldberg.

Now, I had googled Dr. Goldberg so I would have an idea of what to expect. He is an older gentleman. He was most definitely not two younger women... and that is who came into the room after one of those "polite doctor knocks."

They explained that they were medical students working with Dr. Goldberg and asked I would mind if they examined me and asked some questions.

I'm a fan of higher learning, so I was game! They listened to my heart and my story. They took my pulse and told me that my heart was beating faster than my pulse... which seemed concerning to me.

Then they left. I assume to confer with Dr. Goldberg.

I sat. In a robe. With no pants. Waiting.

Another quick knock and the man himself, Dr. Goldberg, appears. He takes my pulse and asks me some questions about my life (where I live and so forth). Then he says, "So, I'm sending you to the Emergency Department." That's what's commonly known as the Emergency Room.

This seemed to have escalated quickly!

He said that not only did I have AFib but I also had Atrial Flutter. Which sounds cute, but isn't. And it was concerning that my heart rate was clocking in around 150 beats per minute (which one of the student doctors explained meant that my ventricles were beating 150 times but my atrium were going at 300 beats a minute. Not good.).

He said, don't worry this is a simple procedure! And I was like, "what procedure?" He was talking about a cardioversion: they shock your heart back into a normal rhythm. He said it is basically an out patient procedure and we could fool around with drugs for weeks but why bother?

I agreed and off Dr. Goldberg went.

Then I heard the nurse in charge of the office talking to the Emergency Department. She was like, "Yeah! He ran 4 miles this morning. Can you believe it?"


Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital, is where my mom was treated for her cancer and where Marisa gave birth to our sons. There are lots of memories in that place for me and now I can add:

  • My first ER admittance
  • My first IV
  • My first ride in a wheelchair and in a hospital bed

But I'm getting ahead of myself. My cardiologist's office is 2 blocks from the hospital. They were sending me to the ER and I felt fine. I wanted to walk. The nurse wanted me to take a Lyft.

I walked.

Checked myself in and took a seat in the same waitingroom where Marisa and I waited that fateful 3rd of July with my mom as she started her cancer journey (which had already started but none of us knew that!).

It was weird is what I'm saying.

A nurse had me run through my story again and had a tech run another EKG on me. She apologized profusely as she ripped the previous EKG stickers off of my increasingly less hirsute chest (and marveled that no one had shaved my chest yet).

The EKG confirmed that I was in the right place and I was popped into a room to be visited by 4 cardiologists over the course of a few hours. Fun fact: one of those cardiologists was the son of Dr. Goldberg. His name? Dr. Goldberg.

I asked one of them how worried I should be. I mean, it is serious enough for me to be in the Emergency Room but should I be totally terrified or mostly concerned? She told me that I shouldn’t be that worried. They see this all the time and given that I am “young and fit” this shouldn’t be a big deal.

That made me feel better, though I was still in the emergency room.

I was told that I needed to have a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) and then a cardioversion. Scary sounding stuff! But the TEE basically involves them shoving a probe down your throat so they can get a better look at your heart. You just need to have your throat numbed, and I was told it doesn’t take long. Though I don’t think it is pleasant!

Dr. Goldberg had explained the cardioversion to me before, so at least I knew about that. It is an outpatient procedure which is nice, though they couldn’t schedule it for me until Thursday which meant I got to stay overnight in a hospital room!

Another first for me.

Your room, sir.

They pumped me full of beta blockers (to slow my heart rate) and anticoagulants (so a blood clot wouldn’t break off, float to my brain, and give me a stroke) and we waited for my room to become available (by this time Marisa had arrived!).

They hooked up a portable heartmonitor so they could make sure nothing else was going on with my heart and removed the IV which was nice because that meant I no longer had to pee in a bottle.

We made it to the room, though I must say it is odd being wheeled around while you’re laying down in a bed, and settled in. I didn’t have a roommate (woo!) and since Marisa had been in the same hospital for 2 weeks with preeclampsia she had some pro tips (mostly around moving the computer monitor away from the bed as you slept).

I hadn’t eaten anything since 1pm or so, and now it was about 6:30pm. Once they figured out they weren’t doing the procedure until the next day I was told I could eat but shouldn’t eat or drink anything after midnight. Marisa went and bought me a lovely chicken quesadilla and we ate a quick dinner together before she had to go home and take care of the boys.

As we were eating a nurse came in and checked my heart because the monitor told her that it reset to normal rhythm all by itself (well, with the help of the drugs). This was exciting and Marisa went home slightly less worried about me.

Being in the hospital is super boring, and not very restful! The nurses are chatting with one another just outside your door, people pop in and check stuff, there’s lots of beeping, and someone in the next room was moaning rather loudly. I was hoping to get some reading done, and I did a bit, but the environmental factors, and my own stress, made it difficult to concentrate. I decided I should try and sleep a little.

Now, I never have trouble going to sleep, and that held true. I was fast asleep when at 2am a nurse came in and woke me up. “Your heart rate is below 40 BPM. Do you feel ok? Are you dizzy?”

I was bleary eyed, but felt fine and let her know. She seems satisfied and left me to my own devices. I opted for more sleep.

The day starts in the hospital at 5:30am. Who knew? That’s when a tech came in to take my vitals. And since I was up, and people were coming in and out of the room (2 nurses came in, didn’t say anything to me, and took the other bed that was in the room after moving all the furniture. Later, someone came with a different bed and set it up where the other one had been), I decided to stay up.

They call him Dr. Feelgood

I hung out in the room for a bit and then my new cardiologist (not Dr. Goldberg) visited me and told me what the plan was. Since my heart had corrected itself there was no need for a cardioversion today, but he wanted me to do a stress test (with ultrasounds before and after) to make sure there wasn’t a blockage causing the AFib.

He also assured me that while these conditions are serious they are mostly just annoying chronic issues for someone as young and fit as I am. It would seem that two groups of people, in general, get AFib and Atrial Flutter:

  • People in their 60/70’s who are overweight and diabetic
  • Endurance athletes

Basically, he said you’re either really unhealthy and you get this or you’re very healthy and you get it. The people in the middle tend not to have to deal with it. I asked him if that meant I should be less healthy, you know so I could be more healthy. He was not amused.

Frickin’ lasers

We did chat about long term management of my conditions. He said they like to start with drugs first. And he prescribed me a beta blocker that I only have to take when my heartrate jumps or I feel palpitations. There’s the cardioversion which is good for folks who just need their hearts adjusted once and never deal with AFib again (that’s not me, sadly). And then there’s lasers.

Well, there might be lasers. The procedure is called a cardiac ablation. They basically put some catheters into your heart, by way of your upper thighs I think, and destroy the clusters of nerves that cause your heart to miss fire. This procedure is another one that is outpatient, though it would require me to be under for about 2 hours.

Why aren’t you wearing pants?

He left, and I assumed I’d get my stress test right away and be discharged shortly thereafter. Foolish Scott.

Several hours past. Several people told me that they were working on getting the stress test setup up. And I waited.

Then at 2pm my chariot, in the form of a wheelchair and a orderly to push it, arrived. Now, I had never had a stress test in my life at that point. I didn’t know what one should wear, so I just had my hospital gown, socks, and underwear on. Seemed reasonable to me, especially since I assumed someone would tell me if other things were required.

I got to the stress test room and two very nice techs were waiting for me. They had me hop up on a table and then asked me, “Don’t you have shoes and pants?”

“Umm, in my room! I didn’t know what I should bring with me!”

Turns out I should have brought shoes and pants. But they gave me some rather fashionable scrub bottoms and one of the techs ran to get my sneakers from my room.

I put on the pants, took off the robe, and hopped onto the table. The tech looked at my chest and said, “we’re going to need to shave some of this.”

“Do what you need to do!”

And so they did. And yet another set of EKG stickers were affixed to me.

A nurse came in and it was time to do the stress test. After, that is, they told me all the ways - highly unlikely ways - I could die thanks to the test. I signed a waver acknowledging the danger because I’m cool like that and onto the treadmill I went.

After 3 minutes, I was told, the speed and incline of the treadmill would increase. They needed to get my heartrate to 151 for their tests, and so we began. Their calculations told them I would last 9 minutes, which meant I wanted to beat that! So I went for 12 minutes and considered it a win.

The stress test was clear (and told me I am in above average shape for a man my age.. and shape one assumes).

After completing the test I, along with my slightly shorn chest, were wheeled back to my room. To wait and wait and wait. Luckily my nurse ordered me a tray of food because I was quite hungry. But I could have went without waiting 4 hours for them to tell me the stress test was fine and I could leave. A doctor didn’t even come in and talk to me. My nurse just said, “You can go! Sign this. See ya, later!”

I left the hospital with a heart beating in normal rhythm and another prescription for beta blockers (you may recall at the start of this very long post my primary doctor also prescribed a beta blocker, but he told me to take one a day. With this new one I only take it when needed which is nice. Though it also means I have to carry this medicine around with me in case I need it!).

Hello, babies

Leaving the hospital is sort of anticlimactic. This huge life event happened for me... but for everyone there these things happen all the time. And my issue was relatively minor, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Doctors weren’t there to see me off. No one said, “Keep on beating! That is a reference to your heart. Sheesh, I should have said something else because now that I think about it that can be readily misinterpreted. Can we start over? Hey, where are you going?!”

I just walked out of the hospital and headed home. My plan was to walk home since I thought I would be nice to clear my head a little, but the twins were melting down and Marisa was outnumbered so I hopped into a Lyft and arrived to some very cranky babies and a relieved Marisa.

I don’t know if the babies noticed I was gone for longer than usual, but Sammy greeted me with several minutes of cooing, which was certainly an upgrade from the hospital. Nary a doctor cooed at me! Not even once!

Long term

What’s the plan going forward?

Well, I’d like to say this arrhythmia was a one time thing, but it has already happened again since Thursday (and the drugs fixed it. Hurrah, modern medicine). It seems likely that this is a condition I’ll have to live with which means at some point a doctor will be firing lasers IN MY HEART. That’s kind of awesome.

However, I’ll leave those sorts of decisions up to the medical professions. For now I am going to make sure to go to my primary care doctor more often than once a decade and have regular visits with my cardiologist.

There’s also been some changes on my wrist. Thanks to my Fitbit Versa 2 I knew something was up. Now that I know what the issue is, I decided to spring for an Apple Watch.

Why? Well, it includes a feature which detects AFib occurrences and allows you to run EKG scans (which I’ve been doing a lot!). Lest you think I’ve abandoned my beloved FitBit I say nay! I have two wrists, and I have two trackers! An Apple Watch and a FitBit Charge 3. My streak of over 10,000 steps continues!

My running also continues. I ran 8 miles today, and felt fine afterwards.

This was a scary event but I’m glad it happened. We caught it early and it seems like it’ll be an easy to manage set of heart conditions.

Now, I’m off to check my heartrate and run another EKG on myself.

A funfetti fact about me


Without a doubt my favorite cake in the world is a Pilsbury Funfetti cake with Funfetti icing. That's the cake that I associate with childhood birthdays, and really does a food memory get any better than that?

For a long time Marisa would make me a birthday cake from scratch, and that cake was, in fact, better than the boxed cake of my memories. However, it just didn't taste like my birthday. So, she gave in and I've had one of these cakes for my birthday ever since.

And now I find out that there is a space themed funfetti offering (via the Impulsive Buy).

We are truly living in a special time.

I have good reasons for not blogging more

Chilling on the couch

These two little guys take up a lot of time! Who knew babies were so labor intensive?

Marisa is doing most of the heavy lifting, but that still leaves plenty for dear old Dad to do!

I've often had the urge to blog about something and then someone poops themselves (usually not me!) and the idea is chased out of my skull by the vulgar realities of the mortal world.

I'm still here and I will blog again! At some point! In 18 years or so.

Tomorrow I run, today I ask you for money

Tomorrow I'll be getting up early to run a 5K (instead of getting up early because a baby is crying though I am willing to bet that will be happening too!).

In case you missed it, I'm running to raise money for colorectal cancer research in memory of my mother. And I must admit that I've been floored by the generosity of people. At the moment I'm the largest individual fundraiser for the event... and I'd like to secure that spot (because it is all about me, really).

I've raised my goal time and time again... and I've done so again! If you can give any amount it would be appreciated and it does go to a very good cause.

There's still time to donate!



You ever wonder what $26.97 worth of change looks like?

Wonder no more!

And here’s the breakdown by coin:


I have no idea how I managed to get so many dimes, but thanks to Coinstar I’ve converted these useless metal disks into delicious Amazon credit.

Thoughts on the Kindle’s Present and Future


I've been meaning to write about the things I want to see in a new Kindle for awhile. This post has been percolating in my head for so long, in fact, that a new Kindle Oasis was released awhile back.

Thoughts about the new Kindle Oasis

Of course I ordered the new Oasis as soon as it was available (after checking with Marisa, of course!) and I just finished reading a book on it (The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, which is excellent) so I feel like I can have an opinion about it. This version takes my favorite Kindle ever, the Oasis, and improves it slightly which means it is now my favorite Kindle ever.

This version doesn't add too many new features, but the additons are nice:

  • A few more LEDs for more even lighting, which is the best feature if you ask me.
  • Adjustable screen color temperature so you can make the light warmer or cooler depending on your preference. At the moment you have to set the screen warmth manually which is fine, but I'd rather have an automatic setting that adjusts it based on the light it senses.

If you want to read a more robust review of the Oasis check out my pal Jason Snell's review. I pretty much agree with him on all points, including the fact that most people should just get a Paperwhite.

Features I’d like to see in the next Kindle

Before I share my list of desired features let me say right up front that I have no idea if any of these are feasible (well, I know some are!). That’s the lovely thing about making a list like this: I don’t have to figure out how to do it, I just know I want them!

With that out of the way, here’s my list:

  • No more “Special Offers” - That’s what Amazon calls the ads displayed on locked Kindles. Sure, you can pay $20 to get rid of them, but I can’t imagine they are making much money for Amazon and while they are just a minor annoyance a Kindle sans Special Offers is just nicer. Why? With Special Offers you have to wake your Kindle and then swipe to start reading. Without, you just wake it up and read. Not a big deal, but a slightly nicer experience.
  • Display the current book’s cover as the lock screen - The Kobo already does this, and I assume Amazon doesn’t do it because of the aforementioned Special Offers, but I think it’d be neat. Also, I’d like to see the covers of the books I’m reading a little more often.
  • Built in kick stand ala the Surface Pro/Go - Those members of Microsoft’s Surface lineup sport impressive hardware. One of the best aspects of the design is a very cool, and useful, kickstand on the back of the tablet/laptop. Amazon used to have a cover that would fold into a stand, but it was stuck at one angle. An integrated stand would allow you to adjust the angle to your liking.
  • Ability to lend people ebooks easily - Did you know you can lend people select Kindle books? That selection is rather meager, which I’m going to guess is because of publisher limitations (though I’m sure Amazon would rather you buy all your books). I’d like to see the number of books you can lend increase, and I’d like the process to be as easy as the Family Library feature (which is great! Marisa and I can see all of one another’s books on our Kindles. It is pretty damn sweet).
  • Browse library books from the device - Once again Amazon is in the business of selling you Kindle books, so they probably aren’t too interested in this. However, it would be nice if you could browse/borrow library books directly from the Kindle (you can do this on a Kobo, though that makes sense since Kobos are made by the same company that owns/runs Overdrive which many libraries use to power their ebook lending systems). I will say that if your library is an Overdrive library you should download Libby. It is a much better way to search the catalog and you can send books from Libby to your Kindle with a couple of taps (in the US only).
  • Tap to Wake - When someone comes up with a good feature you should... borrow it. iOS sports “Tap to Wake” which lets you tap on the screen to check notifications. It is something I use all the time, and I’d love to see it on my Kindle with a slight modification: “Tap to unlock.” Just tap on the screen (assuming it is displaying the Kindle lock screen) and you’re taken right to the last thing you were doing on your Kindle.
  • Eye Tracking - This one may be the least feasible, but the one that would improve my life the most. These days I’m using my Kindle more and more with just one hand. The great thing about the Oasis is that I can just keep my thumb on the next page and press it when I need to without disturbing the baby that is sleeping in my arms. But I’m lazy and I’d like to do even less to turn the page. It would be cool if the Kindle could track my eyes and know when I got to the end of the page and automatically turn the page. And if I wanted to turn back a page I could stare at the upper left hand corner of the page and back I go.
  • Faster, higher resolution screen - This is obvious but I feel like I should include it!

Will we see anything like this in the next Kindle? I have no idea! Will I still buy whatever Kindle they come out with? Probably.

Is the Kindle mediocre?

As I was writing this Jason wrote a post lamenting the Kindle’s current status and its boring future (i.e. more of the same).

Usually, I agree with Jason but this time we are in differing schools on one particular point. I would like Amazon to stick to making the Kindle disappear while you’re reading a book. Nothing too flashy is needed when it is just a container for whatever book you might be reading.

Jason suggests that perhaps Amazon missed an opportunity to make the Kindle a hub of all the text people read by offering up apps (from The NY Times and other publishers) from an App Store (I assume). That would make me sad. Several years ago I wrote about how much I liked the fact that the Kindle really one does on thing well: allows you to read a book without distraction.

I can see the allure of adding apps to the Kindle but I think that would be contrary to the entire reason the Kindle exists. Now, a Kindle Fire sporting a color eInk screen is something that I could really get into (which would include the Kindle app, and several other apps).

That’s not to say that there isn’t room for improvement with how the Kindle handles reading books, I’d just hate to see the Kindle lose focus on that (though, admittedly, Amazon doesn’t seem all that focuses on pushing the state of the art with the Kindle which is Jason’s main thesis... and one that brings us back into agreement. Hurrah! I don’t like it when we fight).

So many streaming services, and yet I end up watching episodes of Columbo and old game shows


We live in a world where it made sense to me to pay for 3 years of a service up front despite the fact that:

  • I’ve never used the service, nor has anyone else.
  • I won’t be able to use it for 75 days or so.

You see, Disney will be launching their streaming service, Disney+, in November and I’ve already paid for 3 years of it.


Well, they very cleverly are offering a discount for folks who sign up early. If you prepay for 3 years it costs $4 a month, which is a steal given the amount of content they will be offering via the service.

Now, I’d like to say I signed up because I have kids now, but truth be told I would have signed up anyway so why not save a few bucks!

With the addition of Disney+ this brings my current video subscriptions to:

  • Xfinity (Comcast by another name)
  • Amazon Prime (Included with our Prime membership)
  • Netflix (I remember when I’d get DVDs!)
  • Hulu (Signed up for this because Marisa wanted to watch some shows)
  • CBS All Access (Star Trek, of course)
  • Acorn TV (We watch a lot of Acorn TV, to be honest)
  • PBS Passport (Included with our PBS membership and a very nice perk)
  • BritBox (signed up for a preview to watch the latest season of Shetland [which was quite good] and I think we’ll keep it)
  • Disney+

And I watch these services using a variety of devices:

  • TiVo Roamio (Xfinity, Amazon, BritBox, CBS All Access, Netflix)
  • Roku (Same as above with the addition of Xfinity On Demand and Acorn TV)
  • My iPad (Mostly when I’m at the gym though I imagine I’ll use it more when little kids are sleeping!)

I enjoy the flexibilty and range of content these services offer, but it ends up being a mess of logins, subscriptions, and supported devices that make finding what you want to watch when you want to watch it just a tad frustrating.

Though I’m looking forward to adding Disney+ to the mix.


Yesterday was full of fatherly firsts for me. I have left off the names of the babies involved to protect the innocent (and their eventual teenaged egos); here is the anonymized list:


  • I grabbed, with my hand, a giant booger that was flickering in and out from a tiny nostril with each baby breath.
  • I changed the diaper of a baby who I thought was finished pooping. Reader, that baby wasn't finished pooping. But now the changing matt has been cleaned.
  • I caught a not insignificant amount of spitup with my hand to avoid having to change a baby yet again. If a new father ever turns to me seeking parenting wisdom I will tell them, "no matter how gross something is just remember it is very easy to wash your hands."

I hope he doesn't swallow a glowstick


A little while ago we began to find a single piece of glitter on Declan's head at some point during the day. It could happen during the morning feeding session, or whilst changing his diaper, but each time it would be the same: one tiny piece of glitter would be shining on his head just screaming for attention.

We'd remove it, which is harder than you'd think, and the next day there would appear another lonely piece of glitter.

Yesterday I noticed a piece of glitter on Sammy's eyebrow. It is spreading!

I have a pretty solid theory as to how this is happening: Declan is going clubbing while we sleep. I understand it - he's young and wants to check out what Philadelphia's nightlife has to offer. Though there's one thing I can't figure out: how does he reach the elevator call button?

As an aside, if you haven't read this article about how glitter is made (it is a big secret!) then you need to correct that.

How goes parental leave?

Nap time!

I’ve been on Parental Leave for the last few weeks. The above picture pretty much sums up how it is going.

Oh, and safe sleep people don’t worry - Marisa was there and making sure that nothing happened to the baby while I slept.

Speaking of sleep, here’s another view into how having two babies at home is going:

Sleep. Or lack of it.

Thanks to Marisa for letting me sleep in last Friday (it was so nice!).

Green hippos and tiny red foam bears

Hippo onsie

I don't have a lot of super clear memories of my childhood, though it was a pretty good as these things go. I was oblivious about my parent's very rocky marriage (which ended when I went to highschool though it probably shouldn’t have lasted that long) for most of my younger days so I was able to just be a kid.

The memories that do stick out revolve around, frankly, inconsequential objects.

Declan's hippo onsie (pictured about) dredged up one such memory whilst I sat in our livingroom at 3am feeding him a bottle and staring at his onsie.

Growing up I had a variety of novelty erasers that could be stuck onto the end of a pencil. I have a very vivid memory of one eraser in particular: a green tutu wearing hippo. I never actually used it to earse anything because they would ruin it! But I did enjoy playing with it. In fact, I think I still have it somewhere though I couldn’t find it in the apartment after a short search.

Memory is an odd thing, huh?

Thinking about that eraser summoned up another memory about another even stranger thing that that I adored as a kid. I don't recall where I got it from, or why I had it, but somehow I came into the possession of a small red foam bear. It was flat on one side and sort of a rounded cartoon bear with a little face that I drew onto it with a marker. Much like one of those foam dinosuars that come in those water disolvable capsules (which are made by Ja-Ru and you should totally visit their website). Think gummy bear made of foam.

I very much enjoyed taking that bear to school since it was so small and putting him on the pictures in my textbooks and imagining little adventures he would have.

2019 Undy Run - Donate Now!

TL;DR - I'm raising money for colorectal cancer again, so give some money!

Fatherhood isn't how I'll define myself, but since I've been home for the last few weeks adjusting to life with Sammy and Declan they have been very much top of mind, as you can see via Instagram, Twitter, and right here on this blog.

I keep thinking about how much my mom would have loved these little guys.

She was great about not asking me if Marisa and I were ever going to have children. In fact, I think she only asked me once and I said something like, "I know Marisa wants them!" She never brought it up again, but I knew she wanted to be a grandmom.

And she would have made a great one. I can see her giving Declan and Sammy all kinds of treats because they need to get some meat on their bones. And then leaving when either of them started fussing. I can also picture her making it very clear to them that life would be much easier if they would just do as she told them.

Sadly, cancer stole this experience from Sammy and Declan.

Running to remember

People shelter under a giant colon at last year's very rainy Undy Run.

Mom is on my mind because of a yearly tradition I've established: running the Colorectal Cancer Alliance's Undy Run benefiting colorectal cancer research. And you know what that means: I'm begging people for money!

I'd very much appreciate a donation to help me fundraise. Any amount you can spare would be fantastic.

There were lots of things I wanted to do and say to my mom but the end was sudden, expected, and surprising all at once.

If you have anything you want to know about your parents, ask them now. And give them a hug. I'll be sure to hug Marisa, Sammy, and Declan at the end of the 5k for my mom.

7 miles on the treadmill

The other day I tweeted about the 7 mile run I did outdoors:

All of this long distance (for me) running is the result of a Runkeeper 10k training program I signed myself up for.

I’ve been running 4 times a week for the last couple of years and I found myself in a figurative rut. I’d just go out and run 3.1 miles (that’s a 5k for my metric friends) and be done. My timing was improving but it got a bit boring. And I was certain that I couldn’t run longer distances.

Enter the Runkeeper training program. I figured if I could do a 5k I could just do two of them back to back. And today I ran 7 miles again, though this time on the treadmill:



Running on a treadmill for an hour is pretty boring (hurrah for an iPad and WiFi in the gym) but it is much easier to control your pace.

Now, I’m not going to fib here. Since Declan and Sammy have come home it is tougher to find time to run. Major thanks to Marisa and her mom who is in town helping us for a bit. They have graciously agreed to let me sneak away 4 times a week to get my runs in and I appreciate it.

I do still hate running but I’ve come a long way from my days in highschool when I couldn’t run a 15 minute mile.

Review: ABCs of D&D


As a D&D geek I couldn't resist buying The ABCs of D&D (I also ordered The 123s of D&D but that hasn’t arrived yet) to read to my children (sidenote: that’s still a very strange sentence for me to type!) Overall this is an excellent children's book, and if you like D&D you should buy it.

The style of the art is a lot of fun, they pack in plenty of references to things that long time D&D players will enjoy, and while the book’s story isn’t anything amazing I give them props for telling a story within the ABC format.

There were a couple of things that didn’t work for me in this book. Now, I don't know if there's such a thing as spoilers for a kid's book but if there is the rest of this post contains them. You've been warned.

All reasonable people can agree that the letter “B” in a D&D alphabet can only be for one thing: beholder. And yet this book makes the mistake of having B stand for “Book.” Not a fan.


I do get why they made the choice, since books are a big part of D&D and all, but it doesn't make the choice any less wrong.

My only other quibble with the book is what “X” stands for. While it is a critical D&D concept it felt a little bit like a cheat (but you’ll have to buy the book to know what X is!).

On the plus side there’s one illustration that I think perfectly sums up the feeling you get playing D&D and I had a lot of fun reading the book out loud to Sammy and Declan (since they’re only 5 weeks old they didn’t have much to say about the book but they didn’t poop on it, so I think they liked it).

iPad Lockscreen: wasted real estate

On that latest episode of Upgrade a listener asked Jason and Myke how often they change the wallpaper on their various devices (Mac and iOS).

This got me to thinking about my lovely iPad Pro’s screen and how I couldn’t even remember what my lock screen wallpaper was set to. For the record this is it:


That's one of the stock animated options. Cool.


Now that I’m a father of twin boys (yes, this is turning into a daddy blog! 🙄) I’ve been taking a lot of pictures of babies - 1,028 pictures over the last 5 weeks to be exact.

I’ve long resisted giving Apple money for more iCloud storage since I have a ridiculous amount of Dropbox storage, but a shared Photo Album seemed like the easiest way to share all these pics with Marisa and vice versa. Turns out it is! The process is dead simple and working quite well.

Which lead me to thinking about that darn iPad lockscreen.

Feature idea

Now that I’m using Photos more heavily I've noticed the “machine learning” albums that Photos dynamically generates for you tucked in the “For You” section of the app.

If you aren’t familiar, using some sort of techno-magic the Photos app creates slideshows based on photos it thinks go together (they are taken on the same date or in the same place, or feature the same people). Then you can play them, with some music, for a stroll down memory lane. You can even edit the display options to customize the show to your liking.

Here’s a screenshot of some albums created for me:


These are neat, but what I’d really like is to be able to display either a specific photo album or a generated one on my iPad's lockscreen.

Sure, I don’t stare at my lock screen for long stretches of time but it would be lovely to have a different picture (or montage of pictures) show up each time I wake up my iPad. I think it would add a little delight and whimsy to my iPad. And you could have have a setting that turns the iPad into a very expensive digital frame!

Genius, right?