Where Am I?

My New Thing

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Here’s my latest fascination:

It’s a quadcopter with 225mm arms, 8” propellers, a six-channel control board, 22mm motors, and an 11.1-volt, 1600mAh battery.

This is actually the second incarnation, the first having been built on a laser-cut 3mm plywood frame. Poorly-assembled connections resulted in a couple of spontaneous dives into the ground, resulting in two broken arms. This one has fiberglass-impregnated plastic arms and has survived one crash (though one of the original propellers didn’t survive—thank goodness for spares).

It successfully flew at a park in Houston this morning. I’ll need to do some fine-tuning, as it’s a little twitchy, and I plan to install 10” propellers as soon as I get them balanced. That should result in a longer flight time, because the props will produce more thrust at a given motor speed; at the moment, I hover at a little over 50% throttle. I’m also looking at higher-capacity batteries.

Once it’s tuned up nicely, I plan to find a small camera capable of recording video and flying around the countryside. I’m thinking a flight off of Lover’s Leap in Waco’s Cameron Park would be pretty spectacular, as would a dive off the bridge that spans the Red River on our way to Bill & Jo’s place.

Four-Star Reviews

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My app has been on the App Store for 42 days now, and has sold around 40 copies. That’s nothing stellar—it’s not even breaking even—but it’s something.

A few weeks ago, I received my first four-star review. At first, it seemed like a bit of a slap in the face, but now I feel considerably different about it.

Receiving a four-star review means that the reviewer really gave it some thought. I like to think that he or she dug in and tried all the features, envisioned using it during actual gameplay (or actually did use it during gameplay), and then decided that it wasn’t the be-all and end-all application for tracking initiative that it could be. But it was close. This is the kind of review I can appreciate.

We’re constantly reviewing things: meals, customer service, books, music, clothes, road maintenance, and so on. In our minds, we approach this task with a great deal of nuance, breaking down the object or experience into any number of facets, assigning them importance, working out the interplay of different elements, and arriving at an impression of some sort, which we dutifully file away for future reference. When we’re asked to distill all that detail into a single number between one and five, the vast majority of us either ignore the opportunity or turn the in-depth mental review into one of two extremes: One or five. We’re prepared to either laud or excoriate something in such a situation because the feelings that drive those responses are the ones that are most likely to provoke action.

With this in mind, then, it’s nice to see that somebody likes the app enough to give it an above-average score without giving it a 5-star review, which (to my mind) should be reserved for the finest of applications, the paragons of their kind. I wouldn’t mind being credited with writing an app that deserved five stars, but PFTools is not it.

Related: I had an opportunity last weekend to actually put my app to the test while running a game. I probably should have done so before publishing the first version, but it’s too late to worry about such details. In any case, I quickly identified several shortcomings, and have been able to fix up most of them—the low-hanging fruit, really. The next task is a big one, requiring some changes to the underlying database. It won’t be as easy, but the difference it makes to the operation of the app will be significant.

I’m Published!

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It’s true: I’m a published iOS app developer.

I’m definitely still squarely in the hobbyist camp, but I have had an conversation or two with people-with-money, for whom I might be able to do something useful.

In the meantime, here’s my baby. I have a handful of sales so far, most (but not all) of them to family. As with most creative endeavors, it’s not done yet—in fact, I’ve spent much of the day working on the next point release (1.1), which adds a couple of features and smooths out some rough edges.

I’m an App Developer

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A few years ago, I took the first step on the long, long road toward becoming an iOS app developer. Several long months of baby steps followed, along with the purchase of several programming manuals, the watching of many, many tutorial and lecture videos (thanks, iTunes U!), and a handful of false starts.

Today, I took the biggest step of all: I submitted an application to Apple for review and, if all goes well, publishing on the iTunes App Store.

It’s a niche app (written specifically to streamline and simplify the job of running a pencil-and-paper roleplaying game), but I’m hopeful that it will find an appreciative and paying audience. Wish me luck!

Merry Christmas!

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It’s an oldy-but-goody:

I built this a few years ago from a paperclip, an LED, a resistor, and an Atmel ATTiny13V microcontroller. The battery’s still going strong, though that’s probably at least partially because I only drag it out for a couple of weeks each year.

The Verdict

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I have moderate obstructive sleep apnea, which has been preventing me from getting restful sleep and could be contributing to my hypertension and general well-being.

I don’t have the results of the sleep study in front of me, so I’ll wing it just a bit here.

Over the course of the evening, I averaged 32 arousals (no, not like that–we’re talking about a sharp shift in brainwave activity) per hour. In one study I located, the ‘average’ person only encounters this frequency during stage 1 sleep, which is a brief (5-10 minutes in length) transitional period between wakefulness and normal sleep.

Further, my sleep profile indicates that I fairly quickly progressed into stage 3 sleep (the deepest and most restorative) but only stayed there for a brief time before the apnea started. During the first three hours of the study, I had zero REM sleep, and no returns to stage 3. The remainder of the night, spent with the CPAP machine keeping my airway open, showed some periods of REM sleep and some short returns to stage 3.

In short, if the sleep study is indicative of my normal sleep patterns, my sleep is rarely restful, and the introduction of a CPAP machine was beneficial. So, I was prescribed a CPAP machine and mask to use, probably for the remainder of my life. Many patients whose apnea is caused by excess weight can give up the machine following weight loss, but since I’m not overweight it’s unlikely that there’s anything I can do short of surgery to get restful sleep without it.

Now I wear this to bed:

I’m still getting used to this new reality. If my mouth drifts open during the night, the constant flow of air shortcuts right out of my mouth. I’ll be great fun at birthday parties, having basically been transformed into a candle-extinguishing monster. Fortunately, the machine has a built-in humidifier, which has kept my sinuses from being chapped into oblivion. It’s quiet, unless the seal opens up (if I roll over too far and put pressure on the side of my nose, for instance), in which case the hiss of escaping air is loud enough to wake me.

I do feel better today than I have for a little while, but I’m still waking up several times each night. I’m told that it’ll take a couple of weeks before I stop noticing the machine, and I’m bound and determined to see this through.

My Apnea

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I underwent a polysomnography last Friday, to determine if I suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. I’ve been a heavy snorer for as long as I can remember, and my patient wife has tells me occasionally that my gasping has disrupted her sleep. So, since I really would like to remain healthy a bit longer, and would like very much to feel rested when I climb out of bed, I visited a pulmonologist and scheduled the sleep study.

The way it works is that the subject gets all wired up, with leads on the legs, chest, back, neck, and all over the head. Then, the subject tries to sleep in a strange bed with a thick cable of wires bundled at the back of his neck. If, in the course of the night, the technicians positively identify three clear signs of apnea (non-breathing), they wake up the subject, fit him with a CPAP mask (which continuously blows air into the subject’s nose and mouth), and encourage him to go back to sleep.


I finished getting wired up and lay down to sleep around 10:30 PM, and I estimate it took a good half-hour to get comfortable enough to drift off. The technicians woke me up two hours later, around 1:00 AM. In the space of two hours, I’d fallen asleep, the muscles controlling the soft tissue at the back of my mouth relaxed, allowing it to collapse across my airway, and I stopped breathing. At least three times.

I don’t have to explain how disconcerting this is. Fortunately, I have a followup visit with the pulmonologist this afternoon, and we’ll discuss treatment options. The most successful option has been the aforementioned CPAP device. Apnea suffers report that one can becomes accustomed to the device in a week or so, but I’ve read several accounts of people reacting very poorly to them, to the point that they’d rather risk continued apnea (and the accompanying risk of heart attack, depression, hypertension, and a whole slew of other unpleasantness) than wear a mask at night.

I have enough to be healthy for that this isn’t a great concern. I’ll do almost anything to stay healthy and rediscover what good sleep feels like.

Wish me luck. I’ll post more updates.


A Year of Chris

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Almost a full 365 daily pictures of me, arranged in a little video. Enjoy!

Games, Games, Games!

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During our long summer in Houston, Donnell and I were fortunate enough to find a fantastic little game store (Nan’s Games & Comics Too–they don’t have a web site) wherein far too much money was spent.

On what, you ask?

Let’s see…

  • The Ticket to Ride 1910 Expansion, which adds several new routes to the original Ticket to Ride (one of our current favorite board games), along with a couple new ways to play the game, and new train card designs. We haven’t actually played the expansion yet, but we’re looking forward to it.
  • Shadows Over Camelot, a great game that (usually) emphasizes teamwork and long-term strategies. Each player takes on the role of one of the knights of Camelot, and together they try to thwart the forces of darkness before the castle is overrun. There’s a neat game mechanic that means the players are essentially playing against the game, and every turn sees the situation at Camelot worsen. Complicating things is the possibility that one of the players is (secretly) a traitor. Backstabby fun!
  • Finally, we also picked up Descent: Journeys in the Dark, Second Edition. What a game! It’s three-quarters tactical fantasy combat and one-quarter roleplaying game, and can be played in either of two ways. In the first, a game is made up of two short, linked combat encounters which is selected from a book of scenarios. In the other, a full game is made up of a long series of encounters (which combine to form a mostly-cohesive story), where success or failure in one can change the odds later on. This campaign mode allows the pre-generated characters to grow over time, developing new skills and making use of magic items and artifacts collected along the way.

Besides playing way too many games of both Shadows and Descent, we squeezed in some Last Night on Earth (during which Donnell and I witnessed our first defeat of the zombie horde–this game is tough!) and Zombie Fluxx which, while occasionally frustrating and chaotic, is always fun.

I look forward to inflicting some of these games on my friends and family. Consider yourselves warned.