Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Out of Limbo, but.......

Heard from Cleveland Clinic today.  It was a mixture of good and bad news.  They reviewed my records and the good news is that my mitral valve is going to be repaired and not replaced.  Since they have a very high success rate in this venue, I am giving a lot of credibility to their assessment. However, the bad news is that the actual procedure may involve a chest sternotomy instead of robotic surgery.  The actual approach will be determined after all the pre-op testing is done just a few days before the operation. The team and I will meet after all the tests to decide the final approach before the Surgeon starts. The doctor, who is arguably one of best on the planet will be taking the safest approach to ensure the highest degree of success.  

I like that attitude, even if its the worse case sternotomy scenario.  It will take a few more weeks for recovery, and I expect a bit more pain to recover since they have to crack open your chest.  Its a day and night scenario compared to the other surgeon who was going to do only a marginal fix if possible and a good likelihood that he would just install a pig's valve if it was too complicated.  There is a reason why Cleveland Clinic is rated #1 and that is performance and safety.

The operation is set for mid May and I will be getting more details on the procedure itself, the travel arrangements, and other items I need to have done prior to arriving in Cleveland.  In the meantime, there are no restrictions on travel before then so I am looking to book a trip back home in a couple of weeks....Yeah!!!!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Loading up on Ammo

The craziness of the bay area never ceases to surprise me.  I found out today that my tiny little city is a 'sanctuary' city.  The city council quickly voted for a resolution to make the city a 'welcoming' city just prior to Trump signing the executive order on the same topic.  We have a population of just over 10,000 residents - a few city blocks by San Francisco standards, and yet our politicians want to get into the fray.  Its noticeable because of the recent change in council members towards a more liberal mix.  Our tiny little city might lose up to 1.5 million in federal funds.

Our little city is also one that is still allowing the purchase of ammo online, at least until 2018 when it is completely banned in the entire state. That policy might change here shortly with the new council members too so that is why the urgency to stock up quickly. After this year, the only way to get ammo is to go to a store where a background check can be done for every purchase over so many rounds.  So to that end, I am continuing to stock up on ammo as quickly as possible to avoid the hassle and extra cost.

So this week, I am expecting a 'generous' shipment of .223 ammo for my ARs and plan to order more 9mm for my other handguns next week.  If they ever bust me for something, I can see the news saying "He had enough ammo to start a war".  My proclamation here and now:  I am not hoarding to start a war, only to save money and avoid the hassle and bans on my second amendment right to bear arms. Plus if you live in area of Sanctuary cities where lawlessness has been declared, it only makes sense to be able to protect oneself when the rule of law breaks down.  Lastly, I am not a kook !...a bit odd, but definitely not a Rambo type kook..555  Besides, if things go badly and all hell breaks loose and money is worthless, bullets make a great bartering item - even better than gold...

The left is still in the denial and anger stages of grief  (shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) over the victory by Trump.  Some are already in the depression stage, but soon it will be over as they face the fact that nothing can be done for the next four or maybe eight years.  So many politicians are trying anything to derail his agenda irregardless of what their constituents think.  Its going to take some time and maybe some kind of confrontation before its all finished.  It happened in the 60s over civil rights...maybe this time federal troops will be called in to enforce immigration laws in these cities.   

Lastly, if Kalifornia decides to exit the US, I will also exit - Kalifornia.  I wanted find a good reason to leave this crazy state and that might just be enough to push me out completely.  Besides, home nowadays is the Land of Smiles and Kalifornia is just someplace I need to call a 'legal residence'.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Gadget guy.......

First of all, Gung Hay Fat Choy and Sun Neen Fai Lok.  Translated, it means "May you get rich (or successful) and have a happy/peaceful New Year.  Also happiness and good health to you and all your loved ones.

With that finished, its time for some new gadget info.

If you get the impression I like new gadgets, you're right.  After yesterday's post about the Samsung watch, I received an email from one of the projects I backed more than a year ago on KickStarter. KickStarter is a crowd funding site that allows people to back promising or interesting products in exchange for big discounts and early product release.  Sure, you can back a product that never gets off the ground, but I've backed a number of projects including a bullet proof baseball cap, a VPN box, etc., that have all been successful.  The email I got yesterday was from LightPhone, one of the projects I backed for only $100.

The Light Phone is a small, credit card sized and shaped mobile phone that integrates with your existing smartphone.  Its a minimalist phone designed to only receive and make calls independent of your smartphone location.  For example, you can go to the beach and leave your smartphone at home and still receive/make calls.  Your callers will still see your main number when you call them back. Here is the link to their website:  LightPhone.  Anyway, the email said the early release products have been shipped and they even gave me a tracking number for my very own unit.

The original backers also get five months of integration service and a simcard free (so you can get/make calls from your smartphone).  Afterwards, its going to cost $5 per month.  I kind of see it as having an emergency phone in your wallet or a very simple and basic phone extension when you don't need or want that big display, expensive, and fancy smartphone with you.  It can be a life saver if you lock yourself out of your car/house with your smartphone inside.  How about those days when you just plain forget to bring your phone somewhere because its still on the charger?

Lots of possibilities and fun ahead and another gadget to play.  More reviews of this after it comes in. Its due here next week.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Had to exchange the Watch....

After struggling with the Gear S3 for a couple of weeks, I finally figured out the only solution was to exchange the watch for another one specifically designed for T-mobile.  Even after getting an unlock code from AT&T and unlocking the watch, the T-Mobile activation system could not activate the watch because it did not have the right ICI number for its software.  In other words, there is technically nothing stopping the watch to be used on the new network, its the carrier's automated activation system that is preventing the phone to come onto its network, even though the watch is unlocked.  Other users on the online boards have activated the unlocked watches in countries outside the US, but the US carriers don't support unlocked watches.

To stop the ongoing hassle between calling Samsung, T-Mobile, and AT&T, I decided to take advantage of Samsung's 30 day return policy and returned the AT&T version and ordered a new T-mobile version. However, its back ordered and won't ship for another couple of weeks.  At least its now a matter of coordinating returns and waiting for shipment instead of provisioning system software changes among giant carriers.  I would be upset except that I was once an employee of one of these big companies and I know how slow things work internally...its a nightmare to change systems - especially one that is customer facing.  It will take months for them to figure out how to get it done.

Still in limbo.

Still haven't heard from Cleveland Clinic.  I am currently in their 'review' stage and when I contacted the resource nurse via chat yesterday, they told me it takes 2-3 weeks.  Next Tuesday will be 3 weeks and I've now been here in California for over a month and still in limbo.  If it weren't for the center's great reputation for expert care and service (once you get in), I would have given up and gone elsewhere.

Once I hear from them, I will be able to get a specific surgery date and then maybe get a chance to hop back to the LOS for a while.  I'm really missing my family and especially the kids.

Yep...I have the Bangkok blues....

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Getting ready for the Chinese New Year

Photos from home.  Got this picture last night of Ella (Ariella) in her Chinese long dress.  Actually, its a hand me down dress from big sister Marina...555

Gung Hay Fat Choy!  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

TIT or Only in Thailand

If you drive the roads a lot in the land of smiles, its surprising more of these don't happen..555


Still hanging out waiting for word from Cleveland Clinic.  I did however, go to the local heart surgeon the cardiologist referred to me.  It was strange because the surgeon's office called me for an appointment instead of the other way around.  Also, it was obvious when I got there that this was one of those offices where they try to push as many patients through as fast as possible. The waiting room was packed full and my appointment was 50 minutes late. After doing all this research on my condition, and talking to the surgeon, I was really disturbed by the repair technique the surgeon was going to use and his stated success rate.  He was going to use an approach with a lower success rate and a higher chance for re-operation. The fact that he even brought up the possibility of using a pig valve as a option convinced me to wait for a second opinion from Cleveland Clinic, no matter how long it takes.  

Almost no other prominent center does replacement over repair unless the valve is nearly totally gone.  Valve replacement is quick and easy for the surgeon, they make more money, but the results for the patient is not always the best.  Repairs take greater skill, a longer operation, but yields a great result.  Plus this surgeon's first option did not repair the valve, but only re-shaped it with a ring thus reducing the size of the valve with the hope that the valve will close better.  The underlying cause of the valve failure is not addressed and left to chance that it will not cause future problems.  For me, this is unacceptable because its my heart and I want it to be done right, the first time.

This experience has reinforced the belief by many to always get a second or third opinion when important medical decisions have to be made.  We often have an unquestionable belief in doctors who are only human and have their shortcomings and beliefs.  When it comes to your body and your life, getting all the information you can before deciding on a course of action is absolutely essential.  That is, if the situation permits as you can't always do that if you are in an emergency situation.

Ella - She is almost five months old already
So its been a month since I left the mango and I'm missing everyone back home a lot.  Talking to Marina on LINE everyday is not the same as being there in person.  Ella is going through an amazing time in her life where she is starting to smile and can roll over on her own.  These are the things a dad away from home should not miss.  Through all of this, I now truly appreciate the personal sacrifice workers and their families go through when they leave home to work.  Even more so for those in the military whose assignments keep them away with the possibility that they might never return home again.  While my situation is not nearly as dramatic, nevertheless I can see how much of what we want is dictated not by what we want, but what life deals to us.  We just have to play the cards we are given and make the best possible outcome with them.

Ella is a spitting image of Marina when she was the same age
On the positive side, I've been keeping busy setting up my Samsung Gear S3 Frontier and getting some exercise despite the rain.  January and February are not fun times to be in the Bay Area if you can't ski or have an indoor activity.  The other bad thing that is happening is that I am buying things online, which can be a very expensive activity.  

Perhaps the best thing is a trip out of the area.  A trip to Vegas? or the Islands? or a quick trip back to the mango?  It has to be someplace that I can get back from quickly when that call comes.....


Saturday, January 21, 2017

"When you open your heart to Patriotism, there is no room for prejudice"

Recaps what I have been saying in my blog post for the last few days.  Patriotism, love of country over self interest, is the answer to prejudice, whether its racial, religious, economic, sexual, or social.  

Great day for America.  

President Donald J. Trump.  45th President of the USA.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Critical Time in US History

These next few days are going to test the US model of government to its fullest.  It will test the concept and belief that a "peaceful transfer of power" is possible among humans.  In theory, its make sense for civilized people to participate in this process because it preserves what everyone calls their country.  But history has shown, this is easier said than done.  Even in the great Roman "Republic", there was anything but a peaceful transition when Cesar was killed by Cassius and Brutus...which lead to the Roman "Empire" and centuries of Emperor rule.

Unless this inauguration comes off well, the US can never look at other countries again and insist on doing things the democratic way.  After all,  we are supposed to be the shining examples for all to follow.

In the land of smiles, even the commercial companies realize that patriotism sells.  It reminds me of my childhood while growing up in the States and why I love to call it home nowadays.

Why can't we do more to be unifying instead of divisive ?  After all, its supposed to be one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all......

He was a real President and a patriot.  This is how a farewell address should sound like and how a peaceful transfer of power should be.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Switching mobile phone carriers

Its hard to break up...but after all these decades, I'm leaving AT&T for T-mobile.  Aside from a great data plan, the T-mobile ONE plan is really a great financial deal.  Aside from a cheaper monthly rate, its advanced data network is faster and the coverage is better.  You also get free unlimited calling, data, and text in Canada and Mexico.  Then there is the unlimited data and text in 140+ countries -- including the land of smiles.  The details of the plan are here: https://explore.t-mobile.com/t-mobile-one.  I don't plan to use the phone a lot in the Land of Smiles because I have pretty decent service already with what I have and its cheap.   But there is always the option to have it as a second simcard option on my current phone because it supports two cards.  Then there are some plans to visit some other countries in the future, including a trip to the holy land in August or September.  Traveling to places within SE Asia (excluding Laos and Vietnam) is also covered as it will give me an option to not buy a local simcard to keep in touch via data and messaging.

Another reason for switching is that I have been having a big headache getting my Samsung Gear 3 Frontier to work on the AT&T network.  My current plan will not allow me to add the watch without having to create a another new plan for $40 more, and it has data limits.  With T-mobile, I can use their Digits feature and have the same number on my watch, tablet, or other connectable devices.  It also can tie all of your other numbers into one device if you need that as well.  I simply call it the 'many to one' or the 'one to many' number feature. 

For those concerned about having to change numbers, there is something called 'number portability' which is a government regulation that allows one to bring their old number to a new carrier.  In other words, you can keep your existing number.  

As for coverage, check out the following website or click on the image above as it provides user data on the areas covered and how strong the signals are in that area for all the major carriers in the US:  https://opensignal.com/network-coverage-maps/

This is the second service that I've pulled from my former company.  Sadly, it painful to see how they have fallen behind in technology and service offerings.  If that ever changes and they get aggressive and innovative again, I will gladly move back, but for now it hello T-mobile.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Scary Database for those who want to stay private

There is a new website called familytreenow.com that has recently been released that might shock and dismay those who want to remain private.  Its name implies a genealogy purpose, but in reality, it provides a portal to lots of personal information.  For clarification to the many international readers of this blog, this website is limited only to people who currently live, or have previously lived in the United States.  As with other credit or investigative websites, it provides previous addresses, relatives and their addresses, plus other public and some private information.  The big kicker to this is that it is both free and no sign-up is required.  Just pop in a name and get all the horrid details.  There is a way to op-out so if you are worried about your privacy, please check this site out and do what you must do. 

Aunt doesn't look too happy in this picture...555

It was Children's day in the land of smiles today, and I was really sad to have missed it.  B and her aunt took Marina out to the Zoo today in Bangkok.  It was free admission and the turnout was great. Hopefully I will make it next year.  

Local firearms Shooting and Safety program
Some of the local BIB

B is in the mango to order shirts for our local Police sports team. We have supplied team uniforms for our local police events, teams and schools for a couple of years now and its a great way to advertise and promote goodwill for the resort.  They are inexpensive at wholesale malls like Bobae and the stores behind MBK near the National Stadium.  We have an excellent relationship with the local BIB which really helps our business referrals and getting administrative things done quickly.  They even used our resort for a surveillance operation a few years ago when farm tractors were being stolen from the area. Extra shirts are always made up for B and I,  and now we even have them made up for Marina...555

It will be getting cold again in the bay area.  Weather in the 30s and 40s overnight and the strong winter wind just cuts through you like a slap in the face when I go out for my morning walks.  Its also MLK weekend and most of the youner folks are going up to the mountains for the fresh snow to ski. The great thing about living here in Northern California is the proximity to a wide variety of venues.  Its just three and a half hours to the mountains to ski, we have beaches, vineyards, and the coast is beautiful this time of year as there is no fog.  If it weren't for the liberal politics and the weirdos, Kalifornia would be a great place to live (like it was many years ago)...555

Still no word...

Still haven't gotten info from Cleveland Clinic yet.  Haven't heard any complaints about slow or long wait times at the hospital, but I did see one post where someone similar to me had to go on a waiting list for an appointment.  It might be the case as the doctor I am hoping to get treatment from is very busy, but he is arguably the best mitral valve repair expert in the country or even the planet.  If this is going to take some time before I have an actual date, I might make plans to go back to the mango as I don't want to wait here away from family and friends for an undetermined time.

Alternatively, if its not too long a wait, I can make my annual trip down to Vegas for the kite trade show and the Vegas Archery shoot off.  Its just that I thought it would only be a couple of weeks and then I could get it done and head back quickly.  But I am quickly reminded that this is Amerika, and things are a bit different here.

These numbers are a bit outdated.  I know it costs a lot more than when this was published.
Plus valve repair is not listed, but its a bit higher than replacement.

I hesitate to get the procedure done in the LOS because I don't want to forfeit my Medicare and insurance benefits here in the US. If it isn't urgent and dangerous to wait, why shouldn't I get it done at one of the best hospitals and surgical units in the world?   When I last checked, the entire procedure is around $164,000 and can go up to $200K USD, not including doctor's fees.  The procedure will be around 30K if it were to be done in one of Thailand's top end hospitals (over 1 million baht).  For that amount, I will just wait my turn as I am still in the category of early stage surgery requirement and have no physical distress or limitations on activities.


Just got the timeline from one of the resource nurses at the hospital.  Typically takes two weeks for the review after all the documentation is received.  Then it takes at least one month before surgery is scheduled - it can be shorter or longer depending on medical need.  For typical non-urgent, r/t or insurance cases (like mine) it can be longer and the future dates can be mutually negotiated and set. So it looks like I might just have to go back to the mango and wait a couple of months for my surgery date....oh that just breaks my heart (pun intended). I will know more sometime in the next week or so, since my records have been in a week already.

Maybe time to pack the bags....yippee !!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Just Chilling Out.....

Just chilling out and waiting for a call from Cleveland Clinic.  Sent all the stuff they asked for last week and according to FedEx, they have it already.  Now its a matter of them reviewing the chart and videos and deciding if they want to take me as a patient.  The good thing is that I'm still asymptomatic with just occasional heart palpitations.  I still try to work out every day when weather and motivation permits.  Its just a waiting game at this point.

Got five volumes done.  Unfortunately, any book over 400 pages has to be softcover

Got an offer from Blog2print to convert this blog into book form at a 50% discount.  I used this service a couple of years ago and the results were very good.  I put eight years of posts into five volumes, complete with pictures and bound them in hardcover when possible.  My logic back in 2015 to put all my posts in print was based on the fact that digital media is perishable.  A system crash or a decision by a vendor to stop supporting the platform can destroy years of work.  But having it on paper, its almost permanent unless it gets destroyed or wears out.  Consider it insurance in case of a technology hiccup.  

Today, I made two more books, one for 2015 and the other for 2016.  Each book normally cost about $200 USD, but with the discount, I got both years for under that price.  You actually create an electronic copy of your book to review before you order and can make changes if you don't like the layout.  Here is a sample for those compensating getting your stuff in 'real print".  

Yes, there is an index for all your posts

Realized I already had 2014 so this book was cancelled

In a few years maybe, and definitely decades from now, Blogger will likely cease to exist, but I can give these books to my children to help them remember how we lived life the fullest together.  Its our history in narrative form and hopefully a little bit of insight into how I felt during this period to time. As for the cost, a Mastercard commercial once said...some things are "priceless"

The website for the book site is:  Blog2print.com.  Try using the promo code "MISSYOU" but it will expire by the 19th so you have to move on this offer soon.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Finally, up to speed.....

What can I say.  The service was great and except for a tad lower than expected speed, I'm up and running on the Webpass network.  The technician was here a bit late, but in 45 minutes he was done and I now have ultra fast internet access.  The results from Speed Test below:

As you can see, my download speed is 94 Mbps and my upload speed is an incredible 71.6 Mbps, which is quite a contrast to my ADSL service.  Its close to 50X faster!  The neat thing about the installation was that my old line was still using POTS (Plain old telephone service) with broadband DSL.  That meant that I could keep everything I already had plus get the new service on a separate line and jack.  Now, I have TWO internet connections in my condo - my old ADSL service plus my new Webpass connection.  I will likely keep both since my old service was under a special retired employee discount program and its cost is very low.  It will be a great backup in case my high speed line goes down.

Its off to pickup my medical records...more later

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Riding through the storms

Last year's snowpack...even more this year - lots more

Its been a stormy week here in Northern California, with high wind and rains almost every day this week and the weekend promising to be even worse. There is record snow in the mountains and chains are required at the summits.  In my younger days, I would be extremely happy because it meant great ski conditions await.  But I am no longer young and the thought of getting on the slopes again is met with equally contrary thoughts about my weaken knees and joints being unable to withstand the stress.  I was quite a good skier in my younger days taking on all the 'expert' black diamond slopes. But the ski lodge is probably more exciting nowadays. Ski resorts should consider the concept of senior slopes...I guess they do, but they call them 'bunny' slopes (so you can take your grand kids and children) so that you can avoid even more humiliation..555

As great as the snow is this year, its out of the question for me this year as I make arrangements for my heart operation.  Can't risk getting sick before the operation and have been pretty much staying in except to go out and buying essentials.  I'm expecting to send out all my records via FEDEX today to the Cleveland Clinic and should have an appointment date sometime next week.

Since I am housebound due to the weather, my current projects are to get my fiber connection installed (due today), and then finish setting up my new Samsung Gear S-3 Frontier watch.  I skipped the whole Apple watch craze because it cost too much, the design was really ugly, and I didn't have an iPhone.  However, I was excited when I saw the new Gear S3 Frontier and ordered it before I left the land of smiles.  After being backordered for over a month, it finally arrived yesterday.  Unlike its former releases, the S3 finally has the kind of design, specs, and price that made me interested.

Got the watch all set up except for my AT&T number sync.  That's the feature that allows you to walk around with just your watch and use it to take and make calls without your phone being nearby or even turned on.  Essentially, its finally a real watch/mobile phone on your wrist.  It will be great for my walks during my anticipated rehabilitation after heart surgery.  Good way to call friends and family if something happens but 911 and other emergency services do not work with this arrangement.  Yes, it will be internet enabled, using your existing phone's data plan.

Called home yesterday and both B and Marina are sick with colds.  Something is going around in the Land of Smiles and many people are getting sick due to the weather and contagious conditions.  Be careful if you are visiting and stay healthy!

Maybe more later with my new fiber connection.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Things worth keeping.....

This is the time of year that I go through my things for items I don't need and then donate them to the local charities such as Goodwill.  But this year I'm doing something different in that I'm going through some items I stored away as "keepsake items".  I collected and kept them because at the time, I thought these were important as they represented things that I did or accomplished throughout my business career.  I was surprised as to how many 'trinkets' I kept from company conferences, task force participation, and incentive awards.  They were important at the time when I was working and maybe a great item for display in my office at work, but they all seem so meaningless now that I am retired.  In fact, there are some items that I don't even remember how or why I got them.  For example, I got this beautiful desk clock with the engraving SNET - darn if I remember what that was all about.  These are likely going to the round file.

small sample of items and awards

The photos were nice as they showed how much younger I looked and how things have changed. Yep, we all wore business suits in those days - every day too.  It made me wonder what happened to my old colleagues and if they remembered the time in which we worked together. If anything, these tokens trigger memories - some good, some not so good as images of tight deadlines and long hours under pressure flash by when I see them.

Some Corporate Trinkets for service..

Then there was the token jewelry.  Ten year pocket knife, service rings for 20 and 25 years, watches, and at retirement, I had kept my company ID card with a hole punched in the middle.  I think I will keep these.

Its appropriate to go through these now as it was exactly 16 years ago that I retired early. I continued to work as a consultant for three more years for another company under a former boss from the same company who also took the early retirement package.  In retrospect, it was the best thing I ever did. After retirement, I remember very distinctly that I  told myself that I would not have to ever get up for a commute or meet another company or project deadline again.  It was such a strange but liberating feeling that I remember it as clear as if it was yesterday.  I also believe strongly that my early retirement gave me an extended length and quality of life over staying at the company for a few years more.

So today, as I clean up and wander through memories of corporate life, I am also extremely grateful of what has transpired since and my fortunate move to the land of smiles.  Its a new chapter in my life and for now, it has more meaning and substance.  Most likely, its the discovery and understanding of what truly makes one happy and life significant..and its definitely not a corporate business career.  It was a means to an end...but once achieved..its worth it to be away from it all.

Looking forward to turning some new pages in the next chapter of life in 2017!

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