Does Switching to Geothermal Heating Make Sense?

So wondering if it would make sense to switch to geothermal heating & cooling…

Tl;dr = probably yes.

To answer this question, I grabbed and cleaned some data from Mass Energy and Environmental Affairs.  Here are the seasonal distributions of oil prices in the Boston area over the past 15 years:

Figure 1. Boston-area seasonal oil prices over the past 15 years. Prices are sampled weekly over the heating season, red lines are medians.

I modeled a few cases based off our oil usage in 1660 sqft and Boston-area oil prices over the past 15 years <insert piles of details & assumptions>.  MassSaves offers 0% 7 year loans and MassCEC offers a rebate.  Including these incentives, here is a snapshot of what the numbers would mean for us over a range of oil prices based on figure 1:

Figure 2. Costs of switching to geothermal versus oil heating and AC.

I considered 3 cases given this model, (1) average oil price, (2) highest oil price, and (3) lowest oil price:

  1. If we switch to geothermal, against the 15-yr average oil price of $2.60/gallon we would pay $68 more per month in the first 7 years, and then break even on those extra payments 2.5 years thereafter. After the first 7 years we would only pay $58 monthly and after 9.5 years we would be saving at $194 per month compared to if we had stayed on oil.

  2. Against the maximum oil price of $4.18/gallon (which occurred between 2011-2014), we would save $65 per month in the first 7 years, and break even 1.4 years early. After 7 years we would be saving $327 per month compared to if we had stayed on oil.

  3. On the other end of the spectrum, if oil prices drop to $1.10 per gallon again (prices we haven’t seen since 2001), we would burn an extra $195 per month in the first 7 years and we could see granddoggies to the babies we don’t have yet before we break even in 27.3 years.

Since oil prices are trending upwards and unlikely to return to the lows we saw 15 years ago (considering political climate, falling prices of renewable energy, technology advances relating to energy, etc etc), it looks like switching to geothermal makes The Sense.  The only caveat is that this is so long as we can take on up to $200 per month cashflow out for the next 7 years.


Free Panda Cloud antivirus without ads, this is it!

Gah the ads and nag screens were driving me nuts from the free antivirus.  I was using Panda Cloud AV for years, and only in the past months there was some update and it got out of hand.

I tried switching to Avira, and a pile of other things.  I even contacted support!  I ended up back with Panda hating life, because the crap I know seemed better than the crap I didn’t know.

Well, today I have finally fixed the ads and it was so simple I don’t know how I missed this before.  Really.  It all came down to a setting with an obfuscated label.

Thanks to this PC Mag article and comment thread — really I was looking for an alternative antivirus without ads, and I just kept getting pointed back to Panda Cloud.  So I read the comments.  So happy and feeling so dumb but still so happy :).

What to do: Settings –> turn off Panda News.

panda av

Alienware Alpha is to PC games as iPhone was to smartphones

We got a new Christmas present! We realized we don’t actually own a current computer since we mostly use work laptops and our kinda old Mac mini is no longer supported by Apple.

So obviously we weren’t getting a new Mac mini. Macs are cute and shiny and all, but only 2-4 years of OS support is abominable.

And we were going to wait until Christmas to open it, but there was a snow storm and the box was wet so we had to open it and make sure the product wasn’t damaged.

Short story is that we love it. It’s everything we wanted and more. It’s the perfect hybrid between play games, do computer stuff, and look normal/cool. Price point is great.

Last thing I want to say about this computer-console is about the online articles I’ve seen. Why are the loud voices in pc gaming so negative? I don’t really follow that field, but I looked for reviews and opinions before making this purchase. And wow are people out there elitist and condescending! About specs, about ultra high settings, about hardware, about the company and marketing claims.

The product description sounded like what we needed and I’m glad I bought it anyways. The Alienware Alpha really is the way to bring casual pc gaming into the living room and the mainstream. No exaggeration.

Do I have hypochondria?


In the past months, maybe year I have been increasingly feeling sick 1-2 hrs after eating. I get shaky and clammy, sweaty and uncoordinated. I have to lie down and eat something to feel better, but I never really feel normal. This sounds kind of like hypoglycemia [1]. The result is I typically delay eating for as long as possible and then eat every 2 hrs thereafter.

I didn’t have a primary care doctor for unrelated reasons. So I found one off a list somehow and had an appointment. She said my symptoms were not possible, gave me a basic metabolic panel to shut me up, and sent me on my way.

Doctor’s office empty, probably should have taken that as a warning sign.

I felt so depressed. Am I a hypochondriac? That little insecure girl in me wanted to hide and cry. The scientist in me said this is stupid, go read some papers and do experiments to make science & evidence based conclusions. MDs just follow flow charts to diagnose.


After a couple days of depression, I did some reading [2,3] and formulated a couple hypotheses:

  1. too much insulin, extended insulin, or hypersensitivity to insulin causes lowered blood glucose
  2. hypersensitivity to epinephrine or too much epinephrine causes hypoglycemic symptoms in the absence of lowered blood glucose
  3. hypoglycemic symptoms can also be brought on by fast fall in blood glucose, regardless of actual glucose values

Experimental Plan

To test these hypotheses, I went and bought the cheapest blood glucose meter at Target and some strips. Happens I worked on the research and development on the product my first job put of college. Cool!

I chose two tests to emulate [4]:

  • fasting glucose
  • time course after meal

The fasting glucose will give me a baseline, to understand whether a sharp rate of change is responsible for symptoms (3).

The post-meal time course will show me whether or not blood glucose is actually lowered when I feel symptoms (1) or (2).

Taking the time course is important to me, in case there are some dynamic differences from normal that can be informative. Many patient oriented informational sites only list high end values and single time points. So I had to do some digging to find some normal values to compare my results to (fig 1).

Figure 1. Normal blood glucose after eating a meal. Average in blue, 2 standard deviations from the mean upper and lower bounds in brown.  From
Figure 1. Normal blood glucose after eating a meal. Average in blue, 2 standard deviations from the mean upper and lower bounds in brown. From


Meter accuracy – test blood glucose twice in a row to see variance inherent to assay.

Fasting – after 8 hrs no food first thing in the morning I measured my blood glucose.

Meal – after meal take measurements 15 min to 3 hrs, half hour intervals and then 15 min intervals after 2 hrs when I expect to feel sick.


Two subsequent measurements yielded the same blood glucose value, suggesting accuracy of testing equipment.

Fasting blood glucose is 122mg/dL.

Meal blood glucose rose to 200mg/dL shortly after lunch and peaked at 223mg/dL approximately 60min post meal. Blood glucose fell about 100mg/dL between 60 and 120min. Hypoglycemic symptoms onset at 120min coincided with sharp fall, but a normal range reading of 125mg/dL. Readings in 15 min intervals thereafter showed some additional decrease but relative stabilization of blood glucose levels. The lowest reading was at 96mg/dL (fig 2).  The experiment was stopped prior to the planned 3 hr time course because I had to eat something.

Figure 2. My post meal blood glucose time-course. Meal included hot & sour soup, eggroll, tofu, green beans, and white rice. Blood glucose peaked just before 1hr, and then fell sharply by almost 100mg/dL by 2 hrs.


I was expecting to find hypoglycemic readings, but instead found that my blood glucose is high to the point of possible pathology accompanied by high variability.

My fasting level of 122mg/dL is near the top end of the prediabetic range at 125mg/dL [5]. Fasting blood glucose greater than 125mg/dL indicate diabetes has developed, rather than pre diabetes condition. I do not meet this criteria for full diabetes, although I am approaching this threshold.

My peak blood glucose level at 223mg/dL 1hr post meal is in the diabetic range and exceeds prediabetic levels [5].

However, I am able to reduce blood glucose levels from peak back into a normal range. This dynamic pattern is consistent with prediabetes rather than full diabetes [6].

It is possible that my blood glucose falls into the hypoglycemic range at times due to the sharp fall in blood glucose from peak [7], but hypoglycemic blood glucose values were not observed here. Likely hypoglycemic symptoms are often due to the high rate of change rather than actual hypoglycemic blood glucose.

A prediabetic condition is supported by the post meal dynamics and most blood glucose measurements. Only my peak post meal blood glucose at 1 hr is alarmingly hyperglycemic supporting full diabetes.

This dynamic pattern suggests a loss of first phase insulin release, which occurs within 2 minutes of first food intake in normal people and prevent rise over 140mg/dL [7]. The second, sustained insulin release appears to be intact which explains the fall in my blood glucose between 1 & 2 hrs. However, overcompensation in the second insulin release due to hyperglycemic conditions at 1hr could explain the subsequent sharp fall in blood glucose and hypoglycemic symptoms [7].

Loss of the first insulin response is a feature of prediabetes or Impaired Glucose Tolerance [7]. Asians are reported to have higher incidences than Caucasians of developing diabetes, 95% of whom develop type 2 diabetes [8]. Many, if not all, develop type 2 diabetes through loss of first phase insulin response which causes subsequent beta cell loss or dysfunction, impairment of the second insulin release, and insulin resistance in other tissues [7,8]. Loss of both phases of insulin release characterizes full diabetes [7].

I probably have prediabetes and need to see an endocrinologist for proper diagnosis and treatment. I will probably not return to the primary care doctor who thought I was a hypochondriac.  I will probably repeat these experiments for a total of 3 times to demonstrate reproducibility [UPDATE: this doesn’t seem possible because stabbing my finger 1-4x per time point to get enough blood hurts].

I have a lot of reading to do to better understand the normal physiology, pathological physiology, disease progression, underlying mechanisms, population incidences, existing treatments, and relevant drug development pipeline.

Understanding my particular disease development and its treatment may be a challenge because my BMI is 19 and I have hovered on this cusp of underweight for my entire adult life.  Most diabetes information and prediabetes treatments focus on slowing disease development by losing weight.  It is likely my disease onset is caused by a factor other than obesity-related lifestyle choices since I am not obese, so modifying my lifestyle may have no effect on my disease progression.  An additional impediment for me to this common  method of treatment is that I cannot really lose weight.

In conclusion, do I have hypochondria?  Sadly it doesn’t seem so.


  1. Hypoglycemia, Wikipedia
  2. Blood sugar regulation, Wikipedia
  3. Reactive hypoglycemia site
  4. American Diabetes Association diagnosis
  5. American Diabetes Association
  6. Blood sugar chart
  7. The beta cell and first phase insulin secretion, Medscape
  8. Joslin Asian American Diabetes Initiative

* I do not necessarily endorse or believe all information contained in the references above.

My favorite iPhone browser iCab is back!!

My iCab layout
My iCab layout

The other day my favorite iPhone browser, iCab Mobile, was updated to version 8.5 and I couldn’t be happier. It has even occurred to me that it’s absence was contributing to my prior dislike for my new iPhone 6.

ICab is a super functional, no-frills workhorse. I can’t possibly talk about all its features, but here’s what I love the most.

Why I like iCab over Safari and everything else

My bottom menu
My bottom menu

ICab has ad blocking, including those annoying ads that underline word’s randomly in text and look like legitimate links. This feature is indispensable, can’t live without it.

Real file uploads on almost any website, with any file. Grab any kind of file, not just photos, from your Dropbox or PDF app or wherever. Use ‘open in iCab’ and then the file shows up in iCab’s ‘Downloads’ list. From there upload it on any website. Real life saver.  No other iOS browser I’ve tried has file uploads.  This feature alone makes the iPhone and iPad keep me from having to lug around my laptop all the time.

Super customizable UI, move any button anywhere and change menu entries for any menu. Choose your search engine, search suggestion engine, browser ID, practically everything. Also full screen. I do wish I could export and save my settings file for posterity. Or post settings to share because maybe I haven’t figured out the optimal configuration but somebody else has?

Continue reading “My favorite iPhone browser iCab is back!!”

My iPhone 6 takes all the doggy pictures

So I did originally feel at best ambivalent about my new iPhone 6. It was really hard to adjust to the bigger size. I still miss my iPhone 5 size.

Some new things have gotten better, and aren’t really unique to the iPhone 6. And some new things are iPhone 6 only and I don’t think I could go back now.

Before anything further, I have to say the new iOS 8 and maybe the iPhone 6 has bugs. Way more than I was used to and they are annoying. Mostly screen rotation gets stuck sideways and Bluetooth doesn’t work right or at all. I tried calibrating the compass to fix the screen rotation issues, not sure it helped but maybe.

Here is wot I LOVE:
– it is fast!
– camera takes great pictures, focuses fast
– 128 gb holds all the doggy pictures!
– TouchID is amazing
– TouchID with 1Password is amazing

I also kind of like seeing more on the bigger screen. But I hate holding the bigger screen so I won’t admit that one.

Now that my favorite apps are getting updated and maybe less buggy things are getting happier!

Here are the apps I’ve been using:
– iCab Mobile
– Fleksy keyboard
– 1Password
– ProCamera

And others that aren’t so terribly exciting to me today.

All in all, getting happier with my new phone. Let’s be honest, because it’s all about the doggy pictures :D.





I don’t like my new iPhone 6 so now what?

I’ve had this new bigger phone for a week now and I really miss my old phone. I wish I could go back.

I miss playing phone one hand and eating with the other hand. I hate having to use two hands all the time. I hate how I have to scoot my hands around to reach.

Sadly I don’t think I can go back #firstworldproblems

Block Avira ads with itself: doesn’t work

[UPDATE TO UPDATE] Yup so none of that actually worked and I’ve gone back to panda because if I’m gonna do ads I might as well do it with the horse I’m familiar with. [/UPDATE TO UPDATE]

[UPDATE] Using Avira to block itself didn’t work.  I am now trying this tutorial. [/UPDATE]

I recently started using free Avira antivirus, switching from Panda Cloud AV because Panda kept popping up upgrade-to-pro ads at me *boo*.

I soon found out that Avira also pops up ads *boo*.

However, thanks to this great WikiHow article 5 Ways to Remove the Popup Ads in Avira Antivirus it’s all awesome now!

Obviously, I chose method 5 of 5: using Avira itself.  It tickled me to no end that I can tell Avira that its own annoying self is suspicious and needs quanrantine :D!


Apple App Store won’t refund my purchases anymore

I sometimes download apps that I think could be useful on my iPad or iPhone. Sometimes they’re great and sometimes not. Sometimes they don’t work at all. In the past I could go to report a problem and get a refund. The last time I tried this, after the in-app purchase settlement, the website said “purchase is ineligible for a refund.” What why?! The app doesn’t work at all and it was $5. I’m pretty peeved. It’s not like you can try apps before you buy, you just have to go off the developers word that it works. Guess I won’t be buying apps anymore. My phone makes phone calls and my iPad takes notes that’s enough.

I managed to contact Apple support by email to complain and they readily refunded my monies after reminding me that their policy is that App Store purchases are final, here are some ways to prevent accidental purchases in the future.

So I guess I still won’t be buying any apps to try.

Posting with BlogPad Pro not so hot

I like the idea of using an app to post to my blog.  It’s convenient on my iPad because I can take pictures, filter & edit them, then post them all in iOS.  Too bad the app I chose, BlogPad Pro, is too buggy :(.  I’m still using it, but it’s weird.

When I start typing, the first letter gets repeated  so  sentences start like this: TThis is so annoying and now I’m going to pause.. hhad to think about what I wanted to say.

It’s also super laggy, I type and wait 3+ seconds for letters to appear.  This lag time gets worse as my posts get longer.

I wanted to like so badly.  Maybe I’ll try Blogsy.  Sad story.