Linking to stories about Video Games, GNU/Linux, Computers, Japan, and other interesting stuff. Nokia Japan graduate. TLUG Member. Mozilla Summiteer.
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Stitcher is now part of Midroll!

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Today, we are excited to announce that podcast industry leader Midroll Media is acquiring Stitcher. We think it’s a perfect fit that together will equal much more than the sum of its parts.

For those unfamiliar, Midroll is a podcast production company and advertising network that is changing the face of digital audio. It’s a company we at Stitcher know well and have been impressed with over the years. It is the parent company of the Earwolf network and its top-ranked comedy podcasts; the Howl premium subscription service, available at and via apps for iOS and Android; and the Midroll advertising network, representing over 200 of the world’s largest podcasts. With offices in Los Angeles and New York City, Midroll was founded in 2010 and is a wholly owned subsidiary of The E.W. Scripps Company.

We are looking forward to joining the Midroll family, combining its leadership in great audio storytelling and advertising with our consumer product and development expertise. We’ve got some great things in store.

For Stitcher listeners, it’s business as usual. You’ll continue to have access to the world’s best audio through our apps and we are excited about innovations we have planned for you this year. For our advertisers and content partners, we look forward to sharing an expanded portfolio of opportunities to help you reach the audiences you’re seeking. Stay tuned!

Questions? Reach out to us at

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114 days ago
Well this was unexpected, almost 2 years ago when #Stitcher was purchased by Deezer I expected in 6-12 months the Stitcher directory to be folded into Deezer in some form. Instead it went into 'maintenance mode' with atleast 1 prolonged server outage. Now under the ownership of Midroll it'll be interesting to see if the concerns that have been raised by several Podcasters regarding openness, access to download logs, caching their audio files, and agreeing to Terms of Use agreements are addressed. Now it'll be interesting to see Midroll's Howl podcast app in 6 months, I could see it likely that Howl is rolled into Stitcher with it's larger userbase and wider platform availability.
Saitama, Japan
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The future Home Work

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The Home Work podcast is about to change again, starting with weekly “Lunch Breaks.”

cover_quarterFour years ago Aaron came to me with an idea for a podcast about working from home. We produced an episode, the show went to 70 Decibels and then to 5by5. Today, after four years and 204 episodes, Aaron has left the show.

It’s a shame to see him go, as he’s a talented podcaster and he brought a lot to the show. I wish him well in his endeavors.

Talk live with me and other home workers

What does that mean for the podcast? It will continue with changes. Right now we’re on a four-week break between season two and season three. But that doesn’t mean you won’t hear from me.

This Friday, April 15, I’ll hold the first weekly “Lunch Break,” which will be a live, 30-minute chat with me on Blab, starting at 12:00 PM Eastern. If you haven’t used Blab before, it’s really cool. Join me to talk with like-minded home workers, ask questions, share advice and so on. It’s going to be great and I’m looking forward to talking with you face-to-face.

Season three of Home Work is also under production and this time the theme is back to basics: “How to successfully work from home.” The ten-episode season will feature more amazing guests (season two featured appearance by Merlin Mann, David Sparks, Mike Vardy, Kelly Guimont, Beth Dunn, Brett Kelly, Moisés Chiullán, Patrick Rhone, Mike Schmitz and Michael Drucker) talking about specific aspects of being the most successful home worker you can be.

Best of Season One Ebook

Also in the works is a “Best of Home Work Season One” ebook, which will feature the absolute top advice and insights gleaned from our show’s first season across several topics:

  1. Work spaces
  2. Assembling a team
  3. Distraction
  4. Equipment, apps and tools
  5. Productivity
  6. Dealing with time off
  7. Email
  8. Priorities
  9. Tips for telecommuters
  10. Tips for freelancers
  11. Client work

I’m combing through each episode now to find the best bits.

Home Work is evolving and I want to thank everyone who listens to the show. A podcast that has survived four years is nothing to sneeze at. I’m very eager for season three and I’ll talk you all on Friday.

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114 days ago
Designer turned Podcaster @amahnke is hanging up his #HomeWork podcast hat as things take off with Lore, he's now making a TV show base on it!
Saitama, Japan
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Follow the money: Apple vs. the FBI

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A lot of people are watching the spectacle of Apple vs. the FBI and the Homeland Security Theatre and rubbing their eyes, wondering why Apple (in the person of CEO Tim Cook) is suddenly the knight in shining armour on the side of consumer privacy and civil rights. Apple, after all, is a goliath-sized corporate behemoth with the second largest market cap in US stock market history—what's in it for them?

As is always the case, to understand why Apple has become so fanatical about customer privacy over the past five years that they're taking on the US government, you need to follow the money.

Apple wasn't very good about customer security in the early days of iOS. Early iterations of the iPhone notoriously lied about the security of SSL connections to email servers; my understanding is that this led to them being banned from some corporate and government accounts for a few years. But then they seem to have realized that security wasn't merely a useful feature to pitch to their customers, but a necessity. And the reason it's essential is Apple Pay.

It used to be a truism that General Motors was an insurance company wit a car-manufacturing subsidiary. GM's pension fund had grown so large (over most of a century) that GM had to invest the money somewhere in order to generate a return on investment that would keep the pensioners going: selling cars was simply not a big enough business. And today Apple is sitting on the largest cash stockpile in US corporate history. Its legendary $120-150Bn in cash has attracted the attention of activist investors like Carl Icahn, but even share buy-backs will only get you so far when you're taking 90% of the profits of the entire global smartphone industry. Some analysts have opined that if Apple maintains its current turnover and earnings, and continues to buy back shares at the current rate, by 2024 AAPL will revert to private ownership ... and still be sitting on $100Bn in cash.

Of course, if you have a tenth of a trillion dollars you can't just rock up to a bank and say "please accept this deposit, how much interest do you pay"? For one thing, if you have $0.1Tn, you have enough money to buy several banks. For another thing, money doesn't exist when it's not moving: it's a coefficient of economic velocity. Money needs to be invested and generate a return. Over the past decade Apple leveraged their cash pile to ensure they had a lead over their competitors. Given a five year product roadmap, they could project the need for some critical piece of hardware—synthetic sapphire phone displays, for example, or 5K monitor panels—years in advance. Such components didn't actually exist, but they knew suppliers who could provide them if someone loaned them the cash to build a factory (typically in the high hundreds of millions to low billions of dollars). So Apple would find a company like Sharp and say, "we're going to need a million 27 inch 5 megapixel displays in four years time. We'll front you the money to set up the factory at just 1% over the bank base rate, in return for an exclusive option to buy the first million quality-compliant components to come out of it". Everyone wins: Sharp get a factory that can mass-produce new high resolution display panels, Apple gets an exclusive lead on these panels for consumer sales, and Apple also gets to invest its money in a way that generates far more profit than merely handing it over to an investment house.

But ... Apple has too much money. From roughly 1998, when Steve Jobs returned, Apple began growing like a dot-com startup, at high double-digit annual percentage growth rates—only it started doing so from a billion dollar a year turnover base, not two guys in a garage. By 2008 it was probably clear to Steve Jobs and Tim Cook that if their strategy of becoming the dominant company in the consumer side of the post-PC world succeeded, the problem of where to find enough mattresses to stuff the $500 bills was only going to get worse. When you're making $50-100Bn a year in profit, you can't put the money in a bank: you have to become a bank. And that's what Apple Pay is about, and that's why Apple have become fanatical about customer privacy and electronic civil rights (in one very narrow field).

I'm going to assume you know what Apple Pay is: you use your iPhone, iPad, or Watch as a trusted, authenticated identity token in a shop to pay for stuff. It ties into your bank account and basically your phone swallows your debit and credit card.

Ultimately the banks are going to discover—the hard way—that getting into bed with Apple was a bad idea, about the same way that getting into bed with Amazon over ebooks was a bad idea for the Big Five publishers. Apple is de facto an investment bank, right now: all it needs is a banking license and the right back end and regulatory oversight and risk management and it will be able to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Chase or Barclays or HSBC as a consumer bank, too. And Apple has a very good idea of how risky their customers' behavior is because unlike the banks and the credit card settlement network they're not running on incrementally upgraded legacy infrastructure designed in the 1950s. Note those two words a couple of sentences ago: "risk management". Banks are not in the business of holding your money or making loans; they live or die by how well they manage risk. Apple, like Google, has a much richer relationship with their customers than any bank. They can (for example), with a customer's position, know roughly where the customer's phone or watch is moving, and thereby spot faked payment credentials if someone clones the device and tries to use it to buy something a thousand miles away. The CC networks have velocity checking but it's a really crude metric for spotting fraud: Apple can massively improve on it.

But that's not where anti-fraud methods begin and end. For example, Apple have got reasonably good fingerprint readers on their current devices, backed by long PINs and password management. The newer phones have trusted hardware stores for the cryptographic tokens that are used to unscramble the addresses where data is written in the phone's on-board storage: they support (and encourage the use of) two-factor authentication. Some analysts report Apple is working on improving their front-facing cameras to the extent that they can do iris or retina scanning. On the long-term horizon, there are already ultra-compact low-cost DNA sequencers out there; if you really want to authenticate a user via biometrics, about the ultimate trust level is a combination of a shared secret (their password) with a mixture of biometrics tested simultaneously—a fingerprint reader that can quickly confirm a match for their genome while the front camera recognizes the retina of the person holding the device. Their phones are, in many respects, more secure than the ATMs and credit card infrastructure we've used to accessing our bank accounts. And that gives the phone vendors an opportunity to leapfrog over the existing banking infrastructure in the efficiency of their risk management protocols, by reducing fraud while simultaneously knowing much more about their customers' habits and being able to spot potentially risky activity patterns early enough to reduce their exposure.

Here's my theory: Apple see their long term future as including a global secure payments infrastructure that takes over the role of Visa and Mastercard's networks—and ultimately of spawning a retail banking subsidiary to provide financial services directly, backed by some of their cash stockpile.

The FBI thought they were asking for a way to unlock a mobile phone, because the FBI is myopically focussed on past criminal investigations, not the future of the technology industry, and the FBI did not understand that they were actually asking for a way to tracelessly unlock and mess with every ATM and credit card on the planet circa 2030 (if not via Apple, then via the other phone OSs, once the festering security fleapit that is Android wakes up and smells the money).

If the FBI get what they want, then the back door will be installed and the next-generation payments infrastructure will be just as prone to fraud as the last-generation card infrastructure, with its card skimmers and identity theft.

And this is why Tim Cook is willing to go to the mattresses with the US department of justice over iOS security: if nobody trusts their iPhone, nobody will be willing to trust the next-generation Apple Bank, and Apple is going to lose their best option for securing their cash pile as it climbs towards the stratosphere.


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182 days ago
Charlie's conspiracy theory on GovOS
Saitama, Japan
185 days ago
185 days ago
Sydney, Australia
185 days ago
Waterloo, Canada
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4 public comments
176 days ago
That rare bit of Apple punditry that is legit pretty interesting.
Boulder, CO
185 days ago
Princeton, NJ
185 days ago
It would help explain the vehemence of Apple's response vs the rest of the tech world. Idealism alone would not be as strong a motivator as idealism plus massive market opportunity.
185 days ago
Fascinating theory.

Introducing Safari Technology Preview

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Starting today, there’s a new, convenient way to see what features and improvements are coming to Safari and other applications that use WebKit. Safari Technology Preview is a version of Safari for OS X, distributed by Apple, that includes a cutting-edge, in-development version of the WebKit browser engine. It’s a great way to test upcoming WebKit features and give feedback to the people building them when it’s most useful — early in development.

Safari Technology Preview is a standalone application that can be used side-by-side with Safari or other web browsers, making it easy to compare behaviors between them. Besides having the latest web features and bug fixes from WebKit, Safari Technology Preview includes the latest improvements to Web Inspector, which you can use to develop and debug your websites. Updates for Safari Technology Preview will be available every two weeks through the Updates pane of the Mac App Store.

How to Get It

You can download Safari Technology Preview from Apple’s Developer website. No account is required to download. You only need to install it once; afterward, updates will be delivered through the App Store.

Features You Can Try Today

Here are just a few areas of recent developments in WebKit that you can try in Safari Technology Preview today.

ECMAScript 6

Safari Technology Preview supports ECMAScript 6, the latest iteration of the JavaScript programming language. ES6 has many new features, including classes; lexical scoping using let, const, and class; iterators and generators; arrow functions; default parameters values; and many new built-in APIs.

B3 JavaScript JIT compiler

B3 is a new low-latency, high-throughput compiler designed from the ground up to support JavaScript and other dynamic languages. B3 delivers great performance benefits, especially on systems with fewer CPU cores.

Improved IndexedDB implementation

WebKit’s revamped IndexedDB implementation is more stable, more standards compliant, and still undergoing rapid improvement.

Shadow DOM

The latest version of Shadow DOM has been heavily revised based on input from web content authors and browser developers. WebKit is the first browser engine to implement this new version of the Shadow DOM spec.

Programmatic cut and copy to the clipboard

It’s now possible to programmatically copy and cut text in response to a user gesture with document.execCommand('copy') and document.execCommand('cut'). Having this ability may eliminate some websites’ last need for the Flash plug-in.

Content Security Policy Level 2

You can define a policy for your web application to mitigate content injection vulnerabilities, such as cross-site scripting (XSS). Level 2 expands on Level 1 with support for <script> and <style> hashes, nonces, and new policy directives to control which websites can embed your web content.

What about the WebKit Nightly?

You may already be familiar with the WebKit Nightly, which serves a purpose similar to that of Safari Technology Preview. For most people, we think Safari Technology Preview is a more convenient and stable way to live on recent WebKit changes. Unlike the nightlies, Safari Technology Preview supports the full set of iCloud-based Safari features, including iCloud History and iCloud Tabs. And we’ll use the time between Safari Technology Preview releases to curate and test updates to a point where we think developers will find it practical to use as their primary browser.

Sharing Your Feedback

We want to hear your feedback about WebKit features before Safari ships them. Your requests and experiences help the WebKit project figure out what’s most important, and the stories of your successes or struggles with features help us refine our implementations. Hearing from the community earlier will give us more perspectives to consider, with more time to act on what we’ve learned.

You can file bugs or feature requests at the WebKit bug tracker, or you can submit feedback or bugs to Apple on Apple’s bug reporting website. For other questions or feedback, feel free to reach me on Twitter at @rmondello or Jonathan Davis at @jonathandavis.

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182 days ago
I Hope that iOS can get the same support in a future public Beta, or as a Browser Developer focused iOS Beta, but good 1st step to catchup with web standards.
Saitama, Japan
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DSCF2154Last week the media reported that the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism was devising a plan to limit the number of abandoned houses and apartments in Japan to no more than 4 million by fiscal 2025. As of 2013, the year the results of the last ministry 5-year survey were released, the number of vacant homes in Japan was estimated to be 8.19 million, about 40 percent of which–3.18 million–were not on sale or for rent. At the present rate, the number of abandoned abodes would rise to 5 million by 2025, so the ministry has decided to put into effect measures to bring down that number. They will announce these measures in March.

According to reports, the plan would involve “putting some abandoned houses and apartments back on the market and removing others,” as well as “offering such houses and apartments to low-income earners and families with children.” In addition, the government would also promote “the replacement of aging condominiums.” Any of these measures would require a much larger existing home market, which was worth about ¥4 trillion in 2013. The ministry thinks it can boost it to ¥8 trillion by 2025 and increase the remodeling and renewal market from ¥7 to ¥12 trillion. Since there would be no attendant increase in the population, the new home market would probably have to decrease in order for these targets to make sense; that and salaries would have to see a boost.

Since new housing starts has always been a chief economic motivator in Japan, it’s difficult to imagine that the government would do anything to discourage new home construction, and as long as it’s a priority it will be difficult to reduce the vacant home problem. For one thing, only new home buyers get tax breaks. More to the point, while the problem of abandoned single-family homes can be addressed in a relatively direct fashion–either fix them up to make them sellable or tear them down–the problem of abandoned units of collective housing is not so simple. For one thing, in order for a building to be rebuilt or “replaced,” four-fifths of the owners of the building’s units must approve, and that’s a hard portion to reach, especially given the fact that a lot of condo owners do not live in their units but rather rent them out. According to Yomiuri Shimbun, the government is thinking of changing the law so that absentee owners of condo units can be ignored if for whatever reason they do not participate in the vote for rebuilding.

But the problem goes deeper. The 2013 survey found that there were 6.13 million units of collective housing in Japan, and now there are about 1.4 million units that are over 40 years old, which is considered the age at which rebuilding is supposed to take place. However, only about 250 apartment buildings have actually been replaced or rebuilt since 1975 throughout Japan. By 2036, there will be 2.77 million units over 40 years of age, so if the government really wants to encourage the rebuilding of condos and apartments, they have to start right away. And the older a unit is, the more likely it will be abandoned. The portion of all condos now that are abandoned is 2.4 percent, but that rises to 10 percent for condos built before 1974, and 15 percent for units built before 1969.

And a good portion of these abandoned apartments are in Tokyo, where many people believe demand for any kind of apartment is high. The 2013 survey showed that there were 518,000 vacant apartments in Tokyo, which means 64 percent of all the vacant homes in the prefecture were non-wooden condominiums and apartments. Of these, 423,000 were intended as rentals, the rest as kojin jutaku, or owner-occupied condos. Many of these rental units may not have been abandoned at the time of the survey, but simply “between tenants,” so to speak. According to the housing services company Homes, the vacancy rate for rental properties in Tokyo is 14.5 percent. Counter-intuitively, this portion increases the closer you get to the city center. The vacancy rate for rental properties in Chiyoda Ward is 36.5 percent; for Chuo Ward 27 percent, the main reason being that rental units in the central wards tend to be both superannuated and expensive, a combination of factors that doesn’t make sense from a market standpoint. Seventy-two percent of the vacant condos/rental apartments in Tokyo are in the 23 wards. Likewise, there are 58,500 vacant single-family homes in Tokyo, 49,600 of which are located in the 23 wards. So vacancies are not just a problem in the suburbs and the countryside. They are also a problem in the large cities, and the same goes for the three prefectures surrounding Tokyo. About half the vacant condominiums in all of Kanagawa Prefecture are in Yokohama, the capital.

In order for the government to have any sort of effect on the abandoned home issue, they have to think first of collective housing, which means getting developers involved because without developers rebuilding old condominiums is almost impossible, especially in the big cities. As we’ve explained elsewhere in this blog, the monthly shuzenhi, or repair fees that condo owners pay toward eventual rebuilding, is never enough for such a huge undertaking, so you need developers who can redesign the buildings in order to add on more units for sale to cover the cost of the rebuild for all the owners; or at least, for those who remain. Another problem the government seems to be conveniently ignoring is that all these condos with abandoned or otherwise vacant units still have people who live in them with the idea of staying there the rest of their lives. As more units become empty there are fewer funds going toward the entire building’s maintenance, as well as fewer funds for rebuilding down the line. It seems almost criminal that when housing plans were devised many years ago these contingencies weren’t taken into consideration, but we guess they just never counted on the population going down.

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226 days ago
How #Japan is dealing with abandoned homes & old apartments
Saitama, Japan
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Be still my beating heart


In early November, just about a month ago, I woke up tired. I’m old so this is not really out of the ordinary.

I still got out of bed, did my business and then took the dog outside to do his. Pro tip: always go yourself before you have to stand around waiting for someone else to unload.

Anyway, tired.

Before heading to the kitchen for my usual bagel, fruit and coffee, I went downstairs to check on my son and make sure he was up in time to make it into the office for work. I’m retired. He’s not.

But getting back up the stairs was so exhausting that I told my wife I would lay back down for awhile.

Now I was tired, in bed again and feeling sick.

Thinking that eating something would make me feel better, I forced myself up and staggered toward the breakfast bar.

Then fell down before I could reach it.

But I didn’t pass out or, thankfully, bash my head on the kitchen counter.

What the fuck was happening to me? I felt dizzy and weak, all wispy and aflutter. My breathing was labored with an unpleasant pressure in my chest. My fingers and toes were going numb.

Unable to stand on my own, my wife helped me into a chair. And told me I looked pale. I told her to get my son. And then call 911.

I won’t deny being fearful. This was some crazy, scary shit because, despite being 58 years old and overweight, I was remarkably healthy. Nothing really bad had ever happened to me. Until now.

But I thought if this was a heart attack, it’s nothing like what happens on TV. Or how my father described it to me. Other than not being able to get a full breath, I wasn’t actually in pain.

The paramedics arrived within just a few minutes. Surprisingly fast, really. And laid me flat on the floor to take my vitals, blood pressure and a quick electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG or EKG.

That ECG told them I was (good news) not having a heart attack. But it also wasn’t normal. Not even close.

A resting heart rate is supposed to be between 60 and 100 beat per minute. Mine was north of 180. I was essentially running a marathon while laying down.

At least sometimes it was that high. But, really, my heart rate was just bouncing up and down, out of control.

That meant a ride in the stretcher limo and straight to the hospital.

Maybe it’s fate or only fortune, but I live just two and a half miles away from one of the top ten cardiac care facilities in the United States. And as soon as I got there, they knew exactly what was wrong.

I was having atrial fibrillation.

The human heart has four chambers. The top two are the atria. The bottom two are the ventricles. Fibrillation is an arrhythmia or irregular and uncoordinated contraction of the cardiac muscle.

When fibrillation occurs in the atria, it reduces blood flow efficiency. When it occurs in the ventricles, it causes sudden cardiac death. So you want to avoid that flavor of it.

The good news is that while atrial fibrillation is very unpleasant, it won’t kill you. Not directly anyway.

But if the arrhythmia persists, then your uncoordinated, inefficient atria can become blood clot manufacturing facilities. And that could precipitate a stroke. Which can, yes, very quickly make you very dead.

So I was given blood thinners to prevent a stroke and other medication to slow my heart rate.

Unfortunately, the drugs didn’t convert my heart rate back into normal sinus rhythm. But my cardiologist told me it’s no big deal because another technique can do that 99% of the time.

It’s called electrical cardioversion.

The plan was to fix the short circuit in my heart by resetting it with a strong jolt of electricity. So strong, in fact, that I would need to be briefly put under to prevent trauma. Apparently it hurts. A lot.

By this time I’d had so many needles jabbed into me and so much hair peeled away by multiple ECG sensors, that strapping me to a work bench and rebooting me like a fucking Windows PC didn’t seem all that strange or unpleasant.

And it wasn’t. I don’t remember a thing.

What’s important is that it worked. The first time. And I felt much, much better right away.

After the procedure I asked my cardiologist what caused the atrial fibrillation. He told me that while they still needed to do more tests, I didn’t have any of the obvious risk factors.

“Sometimes shit happens,” he said.

Which endeared him to me immediately as a fellow professional.

The bad news is that I was back in the hospital a few days later. And again a few days after that. Not with atrial fibrillation, they said. But I was still tired and short of breath.

My son called it acute hypochondria and told me I was suffering from “old man’s disease.” Which really amused my cardiologist. Apparently, both of them are comedians.

Maybe after a lifetime of general good health, I was just having panic attacks over one scary cardiac episode.

Or maybe it was just muscle soreness from all that labored breathing. It could even be the damn flu shot they gave me during that first hospital visit.

We don’t know.

In the meantime, they taped a portable heart monitor to my chest for two weeks, costing me more of my manly fur. And treated me to multiple echocardiograms, ultrasounds of my heart, before and after a treadmill stress test. Not to mention multiple chest X-rays.

After all that, I show absolutely no signs of heart disease, valve problems, blocked arteries or excess pericardial fluid. My cardiologist said that I have a perfectly normal, healthy heart. And I can live my life without any special medication or diet.

So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.

But I still have a 50% chance of another atrial fibrillation episode during the next year. Why? Because those are the odds for anyone who’s ever had it once.

To prevent further stupid trips to the emergency room, I bought an AliveCor Mobile ECG for my iPhone. It can very quickly detect atrial fibrillation as well as many other cardiac problems. It’s worth it just for the peace of mind.

The other thing that makes me feel good about this whole ordeal is the response from family and friends.

My wife and son, of course, were by my side the entire time. Another reason I love them. And my sister and in-laws were checking on me constantly. That’s what our family does.

But the response from all of you out there was amazing. Thank you so much, my friends, for your concern and support. Seriously.

And to everyone who told me to “calm the fuck down,” yes, I got the joke. And I really deserved that advice this time.

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295 days ago
Thank you, sir!
The Republic of California
295 days ago
Hope you feel better @donmelton wishing you and your family happy and healthy holidays
Saitama, Japan
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