Archive for the ‘General’ Category.

LED Lighting That Drives You Crazy

Here’s something you won’t be able to unsee: The next time you are driving at night behind a car, flit your eyes left and right. The brake lights of the car in front of you might cast long streaks of flickering on your retinas. Many of the new LED lights are more like strobe lights, flicker in an insanely distracting way… on the highway and in people’s homes.

LED string lights are the worst. In shopping centers and restaurants and on Christmas trees. Just move your eyes around a little and ZOWIE, you’re in a disco with streaks of strobe lights all around you! I’ve heard that it actually causes epileptic seizures in a small percentage of people. For me, it just makes me hate you and your incessant strobe lights in my face. I’ll admit that the effect isn’t too bad as long as I keep my head and eyes perfectly still. :-(

Can’t tell if your light is flickering? Try this: close one eye and wiggle your finger in front of the bulb. You’ll see the strobe effect very clearly.

Oh Lee, you’re exaggerating / crazy / over-sensitive!

Actually, I’m not. Try googling “LED flicker“. Let me point out to some sources

Here’s an IEEE workgroup formed to work on the problem of high-brightness flickering LED bulbs and their 2010 work-in-progress document whose purpose is “…to describe health implications of flicker”

This article in LEDs Magazine promotes good techniques for manufacturers to use in making good LED lighting because “…people are beginning to pay more attention to long-term exposure under higher-frequency flicker in the 70–160-Hz range. Such flicker can cause malaise, headaches, and visual impairment.”
(LEDs Magazine April/May 2014, Proper driver design eliminates LED light strobe flicker)

Here’s a guy on Youtube that tests LED bulbs on his own time. One of his tests is to check whether bulbs flicker. Some of the big brands flicker, some of the no-name brands don’t. Ugh, there are no standards.

Here’s a snippet from a US Department of Energy publication “Low-frequency flicker can induce seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy, and the flicker in magnetically-ballasted fluorescent lamps used for office lighting has been linked to headaches, fatigue, blurred vision, eyestrain, and reduced visual task performance for certain populations. Flicker can also produce hazardous phantom array effects—which may lead to distraction when driving at night, for example—or stroboscopic effects, which may result in the apparent slowing or stopping of moving machinery in an industrial setting.”

etc etc etc…

Inexpensive Nail Fungus Treatment

For the last 3 years I have been keeping my toenail fungus at bay with Selsun Blue anti-dandruff shampoo. It works as well as all the other topical antifungals but it is far less expensive and easier to apply. Actually, I have been using the CVS brand generic anti-dandruff shampoo. Once or twice a week when I am in the shower I rub a little bit on my whole foot. It works very well.

I’ve written a lot on my blog about nail fungus over the years. I’ve pointed out many scams like Fungavir, Zetaclear, and Claripro. Actually, pretty much if you can’t buy it at a local pharmacy, it’s almost definitely a scam.

Praise the Effort

Saul Khan of Khan Academy wrote this great article about encouraging learning. The big point I got out of it was Process Praise.

He writes, “For instance, praising someone’s process (“I really like how you struggled with that problem”) versus praising an innate trait or talent (“You’re so clever!”) is one way to reinforce a growth ­mindset with someone. Process­ praise acknowledges the effort; talent­ praise reinforces the notion that one only succeeds (or doesn’t) based on a fixed trait.”


70+ miles per gallon! The 2012 Prius C Megan and I got for commuting to school can get 70 MPG OR BETTER on the highway. Wow. Normal driving is more like 50 MPG but wow.

To get this mileage I was on the highway, mostly in the middle lane, stayed around 57 mph (the speed of traffic) and I drove behind a truck at a very normal following distance like in the photo. The image shows 18 miles on the odometer and 70.4mpg!

My mpg for the trip climbed to 72.5 after I drove on some city streets in San Leandro for a while. If I didn’t have the A/C running, I could have done better but hey.

If you write back about how terribly dangerous drafting is and how I’m going to die, please see the photo above: I was following the truck at a VERY normal distance.

It’s Going To Be A Girl!

Megan and I got our 20 week sonogram. It’s going to be a girl!

Why I Switched from Coffee to Caffeine Pills

Yes, the title of this post is “Why I Switched from Coffee to Caffeine Pills”. If you are like most people, you are sizing up what flavor of crazy I am. Hear me out.

When I need a burst of concentration or energy for a few hours or weeks, I use caffeine pills instead of drinking coffee. I’ve found the pills are far more convenient and reliable, and much less expensive. They’ve worked very well for me for the last 2+ years. I can carry them anywhere and use them anytime without relying on the whims of some freshly tattooed barista for my fix. I can control the dosage far more accurately, allowing me to have more energy when I need it and the ability to taper off the dose to get off the sauce without much fuss.

My story:

In the spring of 2012 I was taking Chemistry and Anatomy, two heavy-duty classes. Chemistry started at 9am bright and early! To get my pep and focus going I brewed and drank a cup of coffee every morning. One fine morning on the way to a big test I realized that I forgot to drink my morning brew. As I walked to class, it was easy to feel the difference in my body: I needed some coffee to function for the test!

I knew that without the pick-me-up, I wouldn’t be my best so I walked into a convenience store on the way and grabbed a cup a’ Joe. I drank my coffee, rocked the test and went about my day. But before the test was even finished, I realized that something had gone terribly terribly wrong. The convenience store coffee had way more caffeine than my home brew! At home, I had a French Press with a mild Trader Joe’s brew that put a little zip into my day. But this convenience store cup was rocket fuel in disguise!

I survived of course. But I felt like crap all day. First I was too high and jittery, I was buzzing so hard that I couldn’t think straight. By the afternoon I burned out and felt low. It dawned on me that it was a bad plan to rely so heavily on having the right amount of coffee every day in order to have a good day. The next time I travel, how the heck am I supposed to get the right coffee fix from some unknown barista? Maybe they brew it strong, maybe it’s rocket fuel. This is a plan for disaster!

What I needed was control over the dosage! I went down to Walgreens and picked up a bottle of Walgreens Maximum Strength AWAKE (yes, in big, red, all caps italics!).

I divided the pills into halves and then halves again. Now when I needed a boost in the morning, I’d chew on 1/4 of a pill, 50 mg. exactly! And in 20 minutes I would feel it warming my blood. But better still, the pills are rather bitter. You’d think that there isn’t any positive side to that but let me explain: every time I chew on my wonderful bitter pill I know I’m going to get a rush in a few minutes. After a few weeks of that, I would start to feel better almost immediately after tasting my beloved drug. I know it’s a placebo but it works anyway!

How well does it work for me? In brief: very well!

How much does it cost? The value is staggering. For the cost of 1 Venti Caramel Macchiato I get about two months of pills! No fat, no waiting in line, and it’s always as close as my backpack!

Popping caffeine pills is not without a downside. It’s easy to become addicted. But heck, most of our society is already addicted to caffeine, I’m just grabbing this horse by the reins. We all know the symptoms of caffeine withdrawl: headache, lethargy, crabbyness, maybe even (ironically) insomnia. Getting off caffeine pills is easier than coffee. It’s easy to carefully titrate the dose over a few days or weeks. Life is much better when you have easy access and control over your dosage; I will never find myself binge drinking an espresso at a random Starbucks to quell a raging withdrawal headache!

One strange aspect of this practice is that I have become keenly aware and responsible for my energy level over the course of the day. I find myself flipping my little pill box in my pocket wondering, “Do I need to be high energy in an hour or should I wait to take my power-up?”

What about brain cancer and Franken-drugs and taking “unnatural” things on a daily basis? I’d say that the vast majority of caffeinated foodstuffs have caffeine added to them from big chemical vats just like my beloved pills.

It’s true that pills aren’t as fun as a nice steaming cup of fair trade Sumatra blend. I enjoy sipping coffee too, the pills are for enhancing productivity, not rest and relaxation.

Update September 4 2014: Caffeine pills helped me greatly to study for my prereq classes and take the GRE. I was taking 1/4 to 1 pill per day. I spent 3 months over the summer getting off the sauce. Now, two weeks into grad school I’ve only been eating tiny slivers of caffeine pills on some mornings to jumpstart my day. It’s been going very well. :-)