Category Archives: Life

Afternoon to Golden Hour: What a Difference 90 Minutes Makes

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The air has finally cleared up enough to see Downtown Los Angeles and the mountains. After several weeks of smoggy days, wildfire smoke, and occasional gloom, it’s nice to be able to see something other than a gray blur in the distance!

Also interesting: seeing how much the view changes from late afternoon to really late afternoon. These shots were taken at 4:22 and 5:52pm on the same day. Unfortunately I seem to have held my camera at two different heights, so the foreground jumps around, but the skyline and mountains are in nearly the same spots, and you can see not just different colors, but different details as the shadows move.

Letter to Governor Brown re: California’s SB 822 for Net Neutrality

I sent the following to the California Governor’s office, urging him to sign SB 822.

Dear Governor Brown,

I’m writing today to urge you to sign SB 822 into law and restore net neutrality protections within California. SB 822 goes further than the now-repealed FCC rules at protecting business competition, consumer choice, and freedom of communication over the internet.

As it stands today, we’re back to trusting the cable companies to have our best interests at heart. Competition won’t keep them in check. Many areas only have one or two ISPs to choose from.

Before the FCC stepped in, ISPs would do things like intercept and redirect search queries, block tethering apps, or block VOIP applications on their phone networks. Now that the FCC has stepped back, we’re already seeing cellular companies throttling service. In this era of increased consolidation, it’s not hard to imagine a cable company that’s part of a media conglomerate choose to prioritize data for their parent company’s streaming service over a competitor’s service. They could also legally slow down access to websites critical of the company, or sites that advocate political positions that the owners disagree with.

Net neutrality helps businesses. It helps start-ups. It helps consumers. It helps political activists. It helps *citizens*. And while the ISPs might tell you it will hurt them, they managed all right before the FCC repealed its rules. Abandoning net neutrality helps ONLY the cable and phone companies, at everyone else’s expense.

The effort to re-instate the FCC’s rules at the national level faces an uphill climb. If that effort fails, we can still preserve a free internet in California – and serve as an example to other states. If it succeeds, SB 822 will provide even more protection. With this in mind, I hope that you’ll sign SB 822 and restore net neutrality in California.

Thank you.

A quick note on cameras and cons

I brought my point-and-shoot Canon Powershot to Long Beach Comic Con on Saturday, using it for most of the indoor shots, without the flash. This may have been a mistake, as those photos were all blurrier than the ones I took with my phone. So on Sunday I brought the bigger FujiFilm camera…and had the same problem.

I think we’ve reached the point that, aside from optical zoom, the sensors on phones are good enough and the software is able to overcome the limitation of the optics when compared to point-and-shoot cameras, even the bigger ones. If I want better photos, I’m going to have to step up and buy a better class of camera.

One of these days I’ll get that DSLR…

Food Allergy Shots Moving Forward

If you have environmental allergies to pollen, dust, animals, etc. you’ve long had the option of taking shots to desensitize yourself to the allergen. That hasn’t been the case for food allergies. But a pollen allergy is a lot less likely to kill you than a nut allergy. Some sort of treatment beyond “try not to eat it, and use epinephrine if you do” has been sought after for a long time.

Various forms of oral immunotherapy (OIT, SLIT) for desensitization have been under study for a few years…along with an injected medication that takes a different approach.

Around 10-15 years ago, my allergist at the time brought up the possibility of Xolair (omalizumab) for my asthma, suggesting it might also help with my food allergies. It’s an IgE inhibitor, which means it blocks the pathway through which food allergies operate. In theory, it would reduce my chances (or reduce the intensity) of a severe reaction to an accidental exposure.

It was an unproven, off-label use. Xolair had only been studied and approved for treating asthma, primarily asthma that other medication couldn’t control. And it would mean regular shots. And staying in the office after each one to make sure I didn’t have a reaction to the shot itself.

Ultimately I decided not to take her up on it. It seemed like more trouble than I wanted to go to for an uncertain gain. My experience wouldn’t have even helped clarify that gain. Any close calls I missed would have just been another anecdote, the medication’s impact unproven.

A decade and a bunch of clinical trials later (some alone, some in combination with OIT), the FDA has given Xolair a “breakthrough therapy designation” for treating food allergies. That means fast-tracking further reviews and development as a treatment. (more detailed article.)

There’s still risk/benefit analysis to do (in general and on a case by case basis), but things are starting to finally look up in terms of being able to treat the condition instead of trying to detour around it!

County Fair-Pocalypse

On Thursday I took the day off from work and we went to the Orange County Fair. It was a particularly bizarre visit because Costa Mesa was beneath the smoke plume from the Holy Fire (so named because it started in Holy Jim Canyon) burning in the Santa Ana mountains.

The sky, except for clear blue patches to the west and south, was a yellowish brown. The sunlight was dim and yellow.

[Looking up at a log ride against clouds of brownish smoke.]

When we arrived, the entire ticket sales system was down. All the booths. All the self-serve kiosks. You couldn’t buy tickets for any of the rides, unless you could find one of the wandering cash-only ticket sellers, roaming the fair like quest-giver NPCs.

[Looking up at a Ferris Wheel against clouds of yellowish-brown smoke.]

We did eventually find someone who could sell us tickets. At that point, the sun emerged briefly through a break in the smoke. The deep red-orange disc was dim enough to look at comfortably, and lit up the fissures in the cloud a lurid red.

[Crowds at the fair, and rides, with smoke above and some blue sky in the distance.]

Fair food keeps getting more and more outrageous. Deep fried Twinkie dogs and Zucchini Weenies have been joined by triple-decker donut burgers, chicken-in-a-waffle-on-a-stick, and the donut chicken and ice cream sandwich. But for sheer “because we can” ridiculousness: deep-fried filet mignon. What a waste.

[Food stand selling fried...everything.]

It was early evening by the time we left, and as we walked to the gate closest to where we’d parked, we saw a bright orange line in the distance. Was it the glow of the flames behind the mountain? Or the flames themselves on top of the ridge? We were too far away to tell. But that line shimmered, and we watched a deeper orange glow appear and fade behind another part of the ridge. It’s hard to be sure, but I think it might be burning in the valley between the two peaks of Saddleback.

[Night view: Mostly black, with an orange line silhouetting the edge of a mountain.]