I recently bought some MERV 13 furnace filters from filterbuy.com and was very happy. They mailed 3 filters for about $14 each delivered in about a week. They work well to keep the occasional wildfire smoke out of our house. An acquaintance on Nextdoor.com recommended them to me.
Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category.
I’ve been using a CPAP since 2015 to stop my snoring and sleep apnea. It’s great! Lemme tell you some things about my experience. I can’t believe I haven’t written more about this!
With a CPAP, I need 1 hr less sleep per night AND I wake up more rested AND my throat doesn’t hurt every day AND my wife tolerates the sound way better than hearing me snore, snoore, snooore, snoooooooore, SILENCE SILENCE SILENCE [oh god is Lee going to die????] SILENCE SILENCE gaaaaaasp! [phew!] snoore [damnit]
If you’re thinking that maybe you want to look into this stuff, here’s what I suggest. Figure out for yourself what your sleep experience is and whether it could be better. What matters is YOUR impression, not mine, and not some doctor’s! That said, it’s hard for you to know what things “should” be like because you are the only one with your sleep condition. I strongly support that you measure what is going on in your sleep-life. Start with the easiest measurements!
- Keep a sleep log for a few weeks (just write down your daily impressions of sleep every night)
- Ask your sleep partner what their impression of your sleep is. Ask them a few times over a few weeks.
- Get a free app like Snoreclock to listen to you sleeping. If you hear your snoring and/or sleep apnea for yourself, you’ll have a better idea as to what’s going on!
- I tried pointing a webcam at me while sleeping a few times but it kinda weirded me out watching myself sleep!
Keeping a sleep-log for few weeks was useful for me. I noticed that I was more groggy in the morning when I had been snoring (and apnea-ing), even when I’d sleep for 9-10 hours. Actually, sleeping longer was WORSE for me, which makes sense because of having less oxygen going to my brain for longer. Getting input from my wife was somewhat helpful, “Did I snore last night?” “I don’t know but you kept me up all night.” “What?”
You might be tempted to wait to investigate this sleep thing. Maybe you’re thinking you’ll wait until you’ve lost weight. Yes, weight loss usually helps sleep and sleep apnea. But why wait for to lose weight when you can approach the solution from multiple directions? Similarly, meditation helps get rid of headaches, but ibuprofen is in your medicine cabinet! Use it!
I have seen 4 sleep doctors and my impression is to not trust them but instead trust your own experience and research. Every sleep specialist told me “Oh yeah, you need a CPAP” but they couldn’t help me get it working well without me putting in all the work myself to get it working. “You’ve ben using it 4 hours per night, that’s great.” “It doesn’t feel great.” “Well, some people don’t tolerate it any longer.” “Really? You’ve got nothing?” My friend went to a surgeon for his sleep troubles and the surgeon recommended (I’ll let you guess…..) surgery! He never even recommended a sleep study. He wrote me last week “Yeah, that was the weird thing, the doctor who took out the uvula / tonsils / turbinets didn’t even bother getting a sleep study, and I never had one as a followup. So I’m sure it made things better the issue would be if it made them better enough. I’m only now considering that it might not have been sufficient.” Caveat emptor!
My experience is that when I don’t use the CPAP, my throat and tongue relax, blocking my airway. So I snore loudly and have apnea. Apnea means that maybe 20 times an hour while sleeping, I stop breathing for about 30 seconds until my brain says “Hey, wake up and breathe or you’ll die!” This whole unfortunate process means that oxygen saturation goes down, I wake up a little hundreds of times a night, and I just don’t sleep well! But when I’m wearing my CPAP, the air pushes all the wiggly bits out of the way, I don’t snore, don’t apnea and wake up refreshed!
At first I had a lot of issues with using it. I struggled for almost a year every night trying to get it to fit well and increase my compliance (ie. how long I would wear it before ripping it off in frustration every night). At first, I wore it 2-3 hours per night, which simply isn’t enough. Now I almost always wake up in the morening wearing it, which is awesome!
Here’s all that I did to wear my mask all night:
Fit – I tried a lot of things to get a better fit. What did it for me was getting a Large full-face mask. I’m using a Resmed Airfit F20. I had been to 4 clinics and… I’ll tell you what, none of them wanted to take the frigging mask out of the package to let me try it on because if it didn’t fit, they’d have to expense it. I finally got a sleep tech at Kaiser Richmond to let me try on some masks. I was the one to ask, strongly, for a Large mask and he opened the package. I wore it for 30 seconds in the clinic and I could immediately tell it felt better than the Mediums that was “supposed” to be the right fit for me.
The right mask got me 80% of the way there. I also shave before bed, it’s no bother with an electric razor. And I wash the mask in hot soapy water every week; if I don’t, I have to keep tightening it to keep it from leaking which eventually doesn’t work well. I had tried a mess of other techniques with moderate success.
Maybe you can use a nose-only mask but when I tried one in the sleep clinic, as I fell asleep, the air would go in my nose and right out my mouth which is wei-eerd!
Other issues I’ve tackled….
Appearance – At the very beginning, I was very concerned about it looking dorky or blocking my view or… blah blah blah. Screw that. No one sees you in bed except people that will ALWAYS want you to wear it since it stops you from snoring. I tried a couple sleep appliances and they all sucked. CPAP is the first line treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (definitely get a free Medscape account and check out that link!). I had tried a tongue suction thing, a chin strap, and a mouthguard and they were silly. The second-line treatment for apnea is ALSO CPAP: a fancy CPAP machine called a BiPAP. Surgery is the distant-third option.
Every sleep specialist I visited knew about the same about sleep and CPAP usage that I did. There’s really not that much to know. If you think your CPAP problems can be resolved by going to yet another specialist, you may be overvaluing their lab-coats. I am still pissed at how much each specialist charged my medical insurance for what I got. My sleep evaluation was ten THOUSAND dollars and the result was them saying, “Yup, you stop breathing because of your snoring. A CPAP will probably help. Here, maybe this one will fit. Good luck. Good bye.” The mask fitting session was terrible, their bedside manner was terrible, their billing was terrible, administrative help terrible.
Here’s the review I wrote for Sleep Diagnostics of Fremont.
I thank them for my sleep apnea diagnosis but my experience could have gone much better. A thousand cuts: they could have warned me about the goop they were going to put in my hair for the polysomnography and not lied about that being in the written materials they gave me. The admin people on the phone were weird and unhelpful in many ways. They didn’t help AT ALL with me getting a mask, which resulted in me spending another YEAR trying to find one that fit better. They asked me to sign paperwork that they hadn’t read themselves “Oh, its standard stuff” they said but it wasn’t. And all this terrible service for charging my insurance $10k. Hurumph.
I adjust the settings on the CPAP myself. My max pressure is set to 13.8, min pressure is 8.8. Last week, for the first time in maybe two years, I adjusted the pressure: I changed the max pressure from 13.6 to 13.8 because Megan was saying I was having multiple apneas in a night. My chest felt a little stretched for a night by the additional pressure but it solved the problem immediately. If you change the settings yourself, do it slowly! If you push the pressure too high, you may get central sleep apnea which means that you never exhale, which could be, you know, bad. If you set it too low, you’ll feel like you’re not getting enough air and you’ll rip the mask off at night. Initially, I changed the settings a moderate amount over a few weeks and it helped. At the very beginning, I kept going back for doctor’s appointments for them to change the settings and it was a big hassle. In a few nights of fiddling, I had it dialed in much better than their settings.
I tried using software to look at my CPAP usage patterns. I used Sleepyhead and ResScan from Resmed, None really helped dial in the reason for me not wearing except to help me focus on the problem. Using the free Snoreclock Android app was helpful. I never paid for it and it worked great. The use-case: It would record audio the whole evening and the next morning it would display red areas on a chart when I was snoring. I’d zoom in and look at the volume chart to see if I may have stopped breathing at any time. Then I’d listen to the zoomed-in audio. One hint: It displays different screens when you rotate your phone.
Here’s another tidbit: the manual says I’m supposed to buy a new mask, mask holder, air hose, and humidifier tray every 3 months or so. At first I was buying the stuff like I was supposed to. I’d buy it through my insurance with a co-pay. But then I figured two things: first, most of the items are much less expensive on Amazon than through insurance ($25 mask instead of $50 COPAY for the same item?!) Second, the only regular maintenance I’ve needed is to replace the air filter every 6 months, wash the mask weekly, and replace the mask and mask holder yearly or so. If I was using a humidifier, I could understand a need to keep things cleaner.
Definitely check out my post from 2017 about CPAP.
When you need to watch a website for changes, VisualPing.io it my go-to. You get enough free credits to watch one page daily, and watching more pages is inexpensive. I’ve been watching my daughter’s after-school program’s website for updates during the pandemic and VisualPing has been helpful.
I’ve been using a Chrome extension called Video Speed Controller to speed up boring videos and TV shows. It works great, I’d definitely recommend it. I use it on Netflix and Youtube, often bumping the speed to 1.2x. Sometimes to 2.5x on slow lectures.
If you’re concerned about giving it permissions to view all of your content on all of your sites (I was!), you can go into your Chrome Extensions menu, and give the extension limited “site access”. I gave mine access only to sites when I click on the icon in the Chrome toolbar.
I use the hotkeys “S” and “D” to change the speed of the video dynamically. It’s weird when I slowly crank the speed up. Like the proverbial frog in a slowly boiling pot, I hardly notice the gradually building heat!
I got a Chargie device for my phone. I’m sorry but I can’t recommend it.
The promise is “Chargie is an app+hardware phone charge limiting solution that makes your battery last for much longer than if you had charged it regularly to 100% all night, every night.” It limits charging by unplugging the USB cord when your phone is charged enough.
Here’s the review I emailed to the developer and posted on Google Play. I’m sad that after a month, there’s been no response.
Two Stars out of Five: I got my Chargie April 2, 2020 for my Pixel 2. This review is on Jun 3. It’s a good idea, the app is well written and the device works (with a few tiny glitches) but I’m concerned that it won’t save my battery. Now instead of staying at 100% in the overnight, my battery goes between 80 and 85% charge several times per night. If it’s the act of discharging that is bad for a battery, then Chargie won’t solve the battery-wear problem. :-( I want it to work but I uninstalled it. Maybe it would help if it automatically turned on Battery Saving mode while on the Chargie device.
Have you ever noticed how glowing the reviews on Berkeley Parents Network are? I found out first-hand that the reviews are all so good because negative reviews are prohibited. When you choose to visit a doctor or daycare because they received 10 good reviews on BPN, you should very legitimately be worried that the provider may also have 100 bad reviews that were all rejected. By not allowing negative reviews, they hide any and all problems that an organization may have. Imagine for a moment if Amazon.com only allowed 3-star or better reviews.
Berkeley Parents Network is a popular website that has user submitted reviews of businesses in the East Bay with a connection to parents and kids. They also have a parent advice column. We’ve used their reviews to help guide our family.
I found out about BPN’s no-negative-reviews policy after a friend posted her personal experience with a pediatrician in Berkeley on the Berkeley Family Friends Facebook Group (link). I suggested she post her experience to Berkeley Parents Network. Her post to BPN was denied, the moderator citing their “No negative reviews” policy.
I had an email discussion with the director of Berkeley Parents Network, Ginger Ogle about the no-negative-review policy. Her argument for why they have such a policy was very circular. Essentially it’s “We accept unsolicited positive reviews but negative reviews must be in answer to a question, though there is no reliable way to ask a question on BPN.”
I’ll let you decide, here is the discussion we had:
Lee on 11-17-19:
I’ve been using Berkeley Parents Network for many years and have trusted it to find local professionals for our daughter.
A friend and neighbor told me about a very negative, long term experience she had with a doctor in Berkeley. She tried to post her review on BPN but was denied, citing your “No negative reviews” policy. This has deeply undermined my belief in the utility of your site. How can a review site exist if negative reviews are prohibited? I know that the members of BPN care deeply about the mission of the website. How can this issue be reconciled?
Ginger’s response on 12-7-19:
BPN’s policies have been developed over 25 years. They are published on our website. Please read them. I gave you and your friend a link, but it seems you have not read the policy. We do our best to apply the policies fairly for all subscribers… People who don’t agree with BPN’s policies usually choose not to subscribe.
Lee’s response on 1-13-20:
I read the policy. The negative review in question met most of the requirements of your policy though your policy explicitly makes it impossible for any negative review to meet all of the requirements. Most notably your rule about “Negative reviews are accepted only in response to a relevant question”. This rule means that while positive reviews are accepted at any time, negative reviews are only accepted in the narrow window of time when there is a relevant outstanding question in your system, which is, in all practical terms, never. Do you think her review failed any of the other tests in your Rules for Posting a Negative Review?
A rating system is not valid if it only accepts positive reviews. It sounds like you disagree with me on this.
>People who don’t agree with BPN’s policies usually choose not to subscribe.
A major problem is that only people that find out about the no-negative-review policy are people that try to post negative reviews. I’ve spoken with a few people who use BPN and none knew of this policy. All showed me deeply furrowed eyebrows of concern when they recognized the perils of such censorship.
Ginger’s response on 1-14-20:
You are misunderstanding how BPN works. Your friend posted an *unsolicited* review, which is unusual on BPN. Very few of the tens of thousands of reviews on our website were unsolicited reviews. I would guess less than 1% of all our reviews. The unsolicited reviews are all positive since we don’t accept *unsolicited* negative reviews. 99% of the tens of thousands of reviews on our site were posted in response to a question. Some of them are negative, most of them are positive.
I welcome you, dear reader to honor Ginger’s advice. “People who don’t agree with BPN’s policies usually choose not to subscribe”.
I should note that I tried to create a question about Claudine’s doctor’s office but it was rejected because, the moderator wrote, there was already enough information on the BPN site about the doctor’s office.
Claudine’s Negative Review
Here is the negative review that my friend wrote about Berkeley Pediatrics. I think you will agree that, with her factual, informative, neutral tone, this negative review, and any like it should definitely be seen by potential clients and customers. Here is what she wrote on the Berkeley Family Friends Facebook Group (link) and to BPN:
We are very disappointed with our experience at Berkeley Pediatrics over the course of 5 years specifically regarding our 6 year old. The negligence and mistakes they made were apparent immediately upon switching providers.
Our son was recently diagnosed as being completely deaf in his left ear despite passing his hearing screen (as perfect in both ears) at Berkeley Pediatrics and showing behaviors of single-sided deafness for years. I consistently expressed my concerns over his language development regarding conversations and making friends as well as his difficulties with auditory processing. All of these were passed on as being behavioral issues or needing more sleep. They basically convinced me that his hearing was perfect when in fact MRI has now shown his left ear has likely been deaf since he was a baby.
In addition to this negligence the reaction I received when informing our former pediatrician was “I don’t know what to think about that.” No one ever followed up with their concern or expressed that they would investigate what went wrong so that no other child will fall through their cracks like ours did. We called back yesterday to try to understand what went wrong and why they failed to diagnose a deaf child that had been with the same pediatrician since he was 18 months only to be met with defensiveness. Finally after almost an hour on the phone she agreed to have a meeting about this situation and review the pure tone hearing screen administrations.
Since we are no longer patients at Berkeley Pediatrics I feel like I have an obligation to alert any of you that are patients, of our experience.
A recommendation: We have gotten a couple grocery and prepared food deliveries from Greenleaf Platters https://www.greenleafplatters.com/. They deliver all over the Bay Area. They don’t normally deliver staples like milk but times have changed! It’s been -very- nice getting staples and some fancy foods to keep eating interesting! The staples are very reasonably priced and the fancy foods are expensive and (OMG!) worth it!
He’s looking the wrong way! First, he’s not looking at what he’s working on, the chocolate truffle that is DOWN in front of him. And he’s not looking at the whisk either! He’s looking somewhere off into space to the left of it! WTF?
It’s fine chocolate but the packaging has always been a strong negative and I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why.
Problem: At my school, I often want to keep my heavy, automatically-locking door open just a crack so I and the kids can get back in. Using a traditional wedge door-stop works but it often gets stepped on, kicked or misplaced. Now I use these pinch guards. When not in use, I use Velcro (AKA hook and loop fasteners) on the wall to keep them close-by. All-in, they cost less than $4 per door and they work very well!
Some tips and notes:
- Use long pieces of Velcro on both the pinch-guard and the doorway, it makes it easier to stick them to the wall quickly.
- For the Velcro, remember to put the “soft on the surface“. It makes it easier to feel the rough part on the pinch guard and it’s good to establish that as the norm in your room, you can stick objects onto fabric (a good stand-in for soft Velcro).
- The glue on the velcro didn’t hold to the pinch guard perfectly so I added staples.
- I had tried similar, popular horseshoe-shaped pinch guards but they didn’t work well on my thick door with a strong closer.
- It’s nice that this white pinch guard is easy to see on the door from a distance. Regular doorstops can be hard to see.
Update 10-29-19: These pinch guards are standing up to normal use but not rough abuse from my students in my classrooms. A student doesn’t have to be strong to tear it apart. I’ve come across a very sturdy rubber-plastic door pinch-guard but I don’t know where to buy more! Where can I buy more of these? They were apparently provided for all the classrooms when one of my schools was renovated in ~2007. See the photo to the right. This doorstop would be too heavy to hold in place with velcro so maybe the solution above is best.
Here’s a flying tip, I always check my airline seats on SeatGuru.com before picking them. It lets me avoid bad seats and often get better seats at no extra cost. I just booked a flight to Nashville for my cousin’s wedding and got extra legroom seats on all 4 legs! My last flight, I avoided one of those dreaded limited recline seats!
Here I am booking my flight tonight :-)