New Device with a new purpose

So I am still in the middle of a re occurrence. NeuroSarcoidosis, Transverse Myelitis, whatever it is it knocked me on my butt literally. I have slowly progressed from using a walker and wheelchair to a walker and a Frankenstein like unassisted walk. I am in Physical Therapy and learning a great deal and making progress.

Sometime right before this hit, I had a problem with my Microsoft Band and gotten return approval for a replacement. A great deal of time has passed and Microsoft has discontinued the Band, which I think is very sad. I loved that device. Granted when I went from WindowsPhone to an iPhone a great deal of the joy was killed. Those reasons were mostly the “smart” part of the device, the activity tracking and the associated web service were still exceptional and I will miss them.

So as I mentioned I am in Physical Therapy and I started to feel better, at least at times. I want to monitor this, gauge my progress, push myself. Like my Lumia devices I found you could do this with an iPhone but making sure I always had it in my pocket was less then optimal. Even with the FitBit app you can create a device that uses the iPhone sensors. Don’t get me wrong this still served the purpose but I was looking for more.

Microsoft Band is not an option and I am no marathon runner, heck I have not been able to run a 5k run since the first onset over ten years ago so I don’t need a high end device. I did some shopping and I found myself back at Fitbit. Yes I have to admit that I looked at the Apple Watch but I am nor ready to throw down that kind of money and not being a hater but the feedback I have encountered indicates to me that it needs improvement and I am certain it will improve over time. I received a Fitbit Blaze and it is a nice device but I still prefer an actual wristwatch and I have several, I was looking more for a device I could wear as a watch but primarily a band I could wear on the other wrist. I used a FitBit flex before and until the Microsoft Band I was happy with the device to include the app and web service, and the social network to help me keep moving.

fitbit-charge-2-unboxed

So I have been wearing a FitBit Charge 2 for a few days now. This version is a nice combination of convenient form factor and functionality. It has only been a few days but I have to say the device is a great value. It will take a few more weeks before I post anything of detail about this device but so far I am a happy customer.

NOTE: I mentioned the social factor component of the FitBit service. Peer pressure, contests, etc are a handy component, that extra push when feeling lazy. Issue is it only works with other FitBit users. Interested in competing with friends or just the general community you might want to check out Inkin.

 

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And we wait

So this has been a long stint. Much like one of the DIC episodes I sit here in a hospital bed to receive steroids. Seems I respond to them so it’s a pattern.

All this started after I incurred a staff infection that worsened. That all seemed to clear up but I noticed an issue once I got home. Hey I was on some heavy antibiotics so nothing to be concerned about…

Twenty days later I was crying like a baby thinking I was about to become a paraplegic as my legs shut down. My right leg a useless limp limb. Even in first instance I never needed physical assistance to walk but right now the are two walkers in my house and I needed them. 

A quick push of Prednisone and I walked a little better but my right leg was still dead. 

Unable to get sleep because it’s not just my legs that are a problem. Monday morning around 2:30 I felt a huge wave of pain then warmth and realized things just got worse… Ugggh how.

I did some work made some plans and then went to the Emergency Room. Catheter in, physical assessments done and of too a room.

Hurry and wait but a neurologist appears… Exchange of information and history and we start addressing symptoms (steroids are not a treatment). A few days later and a fresh set of MRI’s taken. The steroids didn’t get my leg back but swelling was dramatically reduced and discomfort levels dropped substantially.

Doctors convene and looks like I am going on yet another ambulance run. Plan was send me to main campus at the concentration of the Neurology department.

Well certainly a nicer room. I got in at a rather late hour but received the immediate attention ⚠ of several Neurologists for the initial assessments.

Steroid drop continues. Large grout of doctors next day, lots of questions and response diagnostics. All of the previous uncertainties restated but there is thought.

So for the two lovely conditions I have, I don’t really fit. With CVIDS my produce antibodies so not a clear case, TM again I don’t check all of the boxes.

Today I hear the doctors are getting good documents from my other episodes. Nothing firm but looking like we are looking at the neurosarcoidosis diagnosis again. This refers back to a previously confusing set of events in my second TM occurrence. Again I didn’t hit all of the markers because the biopsy did not show the granuloma expected. Upside the is a treatment, diagnose is with the Affordable Care Act can I afford it? 

Hopefully there is more information coming.

Pens – yes I have a problem

Okay so I don’t normally post about this topic but considering where my health is, this is a personal diversion.

I have always had a love for pens and watches, and I mean always. Pens have probably been always the worse of the two. Along this topic is fountain pens. Granted I am no purist and only use cartridge based fountain pens. I love Cross writing instruments for their look. They always made great pencils and ball point/roller ball pens. I tried their porous point and gell roller ball type cartridges and loved them. For pencils and more conventional ink pens I think Parker and Rotring are my favorites. Cross ink cartridges have recently been less than stellar in terms of quality.

But this is about fountain pens. Yes I use a computer a great deal but I still prefer taking hand written notes and there is just something about writing with a fountain pen. The Cross versions are just such a pain they normally end up sitting on the dresser. They are great when you first get them and if you use them every day they seem to be fine, but in my experience if you don’t use them for a few days and they stop flowing ink to the nib. I have done the defined maintenance to get them writing again but they never seem to return to a usable state.

I bought some Pentel Varsity fountain pens and really loved them. For the price they are great, the ink flow, the feel of the nib as you write. The only issue was I could not find a fine point nib for them. When I searched for fine point fountain pens it always led me to Lamy pens. I bought the Safari, not a look I would normally be drawn to but a good value, I love pens but they have to be well priced. This is a really nice pen and I have not had issues with the refills or getting it back to writing after the nib has one dry like I did with the Cross versions. I had always wondered if the issue with the Cross fountain pens was where the clip was placed. If you clipped it to your shirt pocket the nib is facing up so maybe gravity reversed the flow of ink from the nib. The Lamy has the same configuration but I have gone days without using it but when I do it is writing with no need to squeezing the ink cartridge or using a paper towel to draw some ink through the channel.

The fine nib is nice but not quite the easy flow you find with the medium nib. Hey you can get different nibs for this pen without needing to replace the whole tip. Not easy to get but available, so I bought a medium nib. Wow this is a well designed pen. Replacing the nib is so easy… a little pressure on the ball of the nib with the pen cap and you pull the current nib off. Slide the other nib on and you are back to writing with no need to flush the ink well or any other efforts to get the ink flowing again.

iPhone meet Compressor

File this under Doh! I started having issues with charging my iPhone. Based on timing I thought it was because of a recent update. I tossed a few cables, bought new ones making sure they were “certified”. The issue just kept getting worse. Even with the OEM cable. I would insert the cable and unless I pressed firmly it would never register and eventually I would get the annoying Apple message about not being an approved accessory.

I went to the AT&T store to inquire because it was getting worse and no juice there is no phone and let’s face it, that is just not going to work. The representative mentioned that it was probably lint, dust etc and that if I take it to the Apple store they will clean it but they can’t do it at the AT&T store. This is puzzling since the Apple store won’t apply the screen protectors but AT&T will but moving on. Doing everything I can to avoid going to an Apple store it was time to try something.

I had read about tweezers and toothpicks but hey I was never very good at that game called Operation back in the day so… First I tried to use the Shop Vac in my shop. Concentrating the nozzle, results were no improvement. Now what… So I use the air compressor to blow saw dust from crevices in my tools when the Shop Vac can’t get it… Fire up the compressor and attach the fine nozzle… a couple quick shots, now let’s test. First cable that had sporadic connectivity… simple insert, no manipulation and ding “charging”, moved the phone and stayed charging. Now let’s test the car charger that no matter what would not register as being connected… gentle insert and nothing else… ding “charging”.

No doubt a short term fix for what I think is less than great engineering but I got to use a power tool and saved myself from finding time to get to an apple store and wait in the queue. Maybe this will help someone else.

Band 2

So Microsoft announced a bunch of new devices, Surface 4 Surface Book yada yada yada. The one that caught my attention was the Microsoft Band 2.
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I have blogged about my experience with the original version and the new features made it a natural upgrade, well aside from the price.

The original Band served me well and became my watch, so many watches collecting dust on my dresser now, as well as my activity tracker. I liked the device because it was my watch, a good activity tracker and then add the ability to interact with text messages and get the calendar notifications. Most of the day I have my phone in my pocket as I listen to podcasts, with the Band it could stay there and I was still able to interact with notifications.

Eager for the new model, well I added and removed it from the cart a few times because of the price but eventually pressed the buy, a pre-order. Watching the order status and hoping for an update… it shipped, then it sat then it went back to where it shipped from, in the meantime colleagues of mine received theirs. Uggggh.

Calling Microsoft and FedEx just furthered the confusion. I thought about cancelling the order and just going to the local BestBuy and picking one up but held off.

Finally in my hands or should I say on my wrist. The device is certainly an upgrade in terms of looks and feel. I do have to say the sizing of these things is not an exact science. I probably needed to go to a Microsoft store and done a real fitting but that just isn’t convenient for most. I went with the Large because I was using that size with the original model. Large does fit for me but barely, so I will wonder how accurate the heart rate monitoring is as I use it.

The look of the device is great, a little geeky and a little stylish. As with the original you can place it in a mode where it is always displaying the time, hmmmm a watch acting like a watch. The clasp is functional and looks good, there is an upgrade there. After a few months there are no blemishes or sratches, another upgrade. On the original it would get white marks on the rubber of the face, easily fixable with a Sharpie but something you couldn’t ignore. The Band 2’s more flexible strap and curved structure do make for a nice fit.

When I received the device I was still a WindowsPhone user. Nice and seamless connection and operation.

The interaction with the device did not change which was nice because it was already well thought out. Some differences where additions not changes, such as how you acknowledge calendar notifications.

A new update has come out and I have to get into that but sadly I have not gotten on my bike or hit the Bowflex in a few days so that will be a later post. The new Band tracks stairs climbed. A small thing but this was a frustration I had going back to Fitbit when they removed it from the Flex.

So for all of the talk of Windows Phone not having apps… for a few reasons I moved from WindowsPhone to an iPhone. Wow do I miss two Band specific apps. fanband for starters (no Powershell logo on my Band is very saddening), there is a windows app alternative but then your Band has to be paired via Bluetooth to that computer so I have gone without so far. Then there is  “Clear My Band” which is a very simple utility but something I used several times a day. The Microsoft Health app on iPhone is nice and effective but the daily use going from a WindowsPhone to a iPhone is just missing something.

Another cool upgrade is the mode. So before you picked workout, run or bicycle tile to start a training session. I have to say I ignore the analysis the Band does for my Bowflex workouts. I understand why but still frustrating after a gruelling workout to be told it was a Light or Maintaining workout. Now when you select the dumbell tile you start a workout, there are options. I need to test that not to mention get back to working out 🙂

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Yeah not a big fan of the iPhone camera but this image shows the Band interaction to select a workout type.

Back to apps, I really miss Gym Builder and have not found an iPhone app that compares. That leads me to another post and something I have to look into but… one reason I stuck with the band is the software and service. The Microsoft health dashboard is great. I wish it had the social feature that fitbit has, hey seeing your friends stats can be a great motivator. One of the new features of the Band and the service is building workouts. In the past you could select from some pre-defined workouts but I am an old dog stuck in old habits. I have tried to build a workout and use it. I am still learning but it is pretty cool but I am not sure I want to interact with my band that way so we will see but that the feature is there and could replace some apps (which sadly with an iPhone you have to buy without trying) is enticing.

 

What’s new.. so much

I have been away for quite some time… and really don’t have much time for this… but I want to get two new “What I am using” posts but to test this new WordPress app (still trying to get the new LiveWriter working) here is a quick blurb. First post I am working on is the new Microsoft Band and the other one… hold on yeah it’s an iPhone. The quick statement for this post is, I love the Microsoft Band (1 and 2) but pair it with an iPhone and it really gets boring, IMHO. For all of the chatter about no apps, wow do I miss the apps I used on WindowsPhone (hmmmmm I sense another post on that one).

Kicking the tires #microsoftband

So I have had a chance to test this device in the last few days. Obviously still not at 100% my testing has been limited but with that said I am really liking this device.

First test was a quick bike ride… a very quick ride. Actually two, as I realized quickly I had not done spring maintenance on the bike after a long winter, had to ride back home and fill the tires… Then a quick run with the bike. The band asks if you want to use GPS.. nice… the data when I was done was pretty detailed… a map which included location but also a color code of how fast in certain areas, then the grade changes (not much on this ride but I really like this feature) and all of the heart rate stuff.

Next was my preferred exercise method, strength training. I went down to the gym set my band into exercise mode and did a quick, but spirited, workout. The information again was what I would expect. How hard I was working and how well my body was recovering. Granted currently the recovering is a little more important to me considering all that has happened the last week or so, but even when healthy this is a great indication of your physical conditioning. Another workout last night, this one a more established routine and done using my old friend the Bowflex. Tracking the Aerobic and Anaerobic results was very interesting. Sure I did know without the use of a device that I got in a pretty good workout for someone who was just laid up in the hospital, but the numbers are interesting and something I look forward to tracking as I progress.

Then there is this news which makes me even more excited about my decision to go with this product. You can see there is a great deal of technology in this product and as expected it appears it is not just released and forgotten, even for a Gen 1 product.

#CVID – just Roids

So a few days back, feeling better, probably around 90% right now. Met with my Hematologist yesterday. Obviously the big question was the numbers. The number in question was 10. Not great but better.

So in my trek with this stuff, it has always been puzzling. I think the disease itself is less than concrete and then my manifestation is even less absolute. During the stay at the hospital there was talk of other treatments and all of that. As in the past that all fades and we go back to having it but nothing proactive to do about it. Based on my conversation with the doctor, since I do respond to simple steroid treatment any other course of treatment is just not warranted.

I don’t know that I completely agree but then again I am just experiencing it.