Category Archives: Personal

Colorado Ute Chemist

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

ConnieGregStmBt78I did have a degree in chemistry so I was checking out job opportunities and wouldn’t you know it, I landed a job as a chemist for Colorado UTE Electric Association’s power plant in Craig Colorado. I was probably never thought I would work as a chemist, but then again, this was not serious chemistry. A Chemist for an electric generating station had to perform basic water, coal and emissions testing that really just required some knowledge of chemistry and the aptitude to learn. Plus they did not pay very much so they were definitely looking for novice chemists. But it was a real job, working for a real company, so I had to adapt to this new culture.

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Craig Stations 1 & 2

When I started work in late 1978 there was one new 400 MW plant in operation and a second 400 MW plant about ready to be started up. Colorado Ute was sort of a conglomerate of rural electric associations based in Montrose providing electricity to the western slope of Colorado. However, the power plants planned in Craig were more about satisfying the electricity needs for California. Plus new environmental concerns were forcing electric utilities to be more responsible about the dangerous emissions that had been polluting our country since the industrial revolution. I had no clue how electricity was produced, but it sure did look exciting. This was all happening in Craig, CO, because of easy access to fairly good coal.

Accepting this job ushered in all sorts of new responsibilities. Where to live? Craig was a boom town now with no available housing so Colorado Ute built a mobile home park on the outskirts of town and that was the only option.

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Our Mobile Home and Subaru in Craig, CO 1978-9

We went to Denver, bought a 14×72′ furnished mobile home for $14K that would be delivered to Craig. For my first week of work we stayed with friends in Steamboat Springs, however, I never made it to work on my first day. It 49 degrees below zero and my car was totally frozen. It was devastating for me to make that call to my new employer telling them that I could not start my car. Our mobile home was delivered at the end of that week, however, utilities would not be hooked up until the following week. Connie and I went to Craig to check out our new home that weekend and decided to actually sleep in the dark cold trailer one night. We were a bit naive thinking we could be warm enough sleeping on our new bed when it was below freezing outside. I swear the trailer felt 10 degrees colder inside. But we were excited about this new life, it was truly going to be an adventure.

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Access to Steamboat sure did Help

Work as a chemist was fairly easy to learn, we were mostly concerned about calcium in the water/steam that could plate out as silica on the turbine blades along with the BTU and sulfur content of the coal we were burning. ColUtePeopleMagazineCover79

I was rather surprised when I appeared on the cover of the Colorado-Ute magazine highlighting an “article about what life was like in Craig, CO“. The startup of the second generator was exciting as there is great concern and optimism associated with such an engineering feet. Overall I was into this sort of professional life. Connie worked as a bank teller but then doing research for a local Title Company.

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View of Power Plants from our Land

We must have assumed we might stay in Craig because we bought a 5 acre plot of land that we planned on building a log house on someday. Craig, CO, was a unique experience, good people but also a bit rough. I played in a basketball league and a flag football league where I was the quarterback until I got my jaw broken.

I got to ski a fair amount in Steamboat and definitely took advantage of the surrounding wilderness for hiking and fishing. Oh yes, we added another animal to our family. A local rancher, Joni Voloshin, who worked with me offer to give us a beautiful Red Australian Shepard if we agreed to let her have a litter of pups. The local ranchers were trying to increase the population of Aussies so to help prevent them from being stolen.

This job as a chemist was good in that I now believed I could do so much more. Our lab’s new Varian Atomic Absorption machine opened doors for me especially thanks to the HP 85 Computer that controlled it. I discovered that I could program these new micro-computers to do so much more. CoUteLabVarian

I was becoming restless and believed that I should make more money as a chemist so I applied for other power plant chemist jobs all around the country. I got an offer from NIPSCO, Northern Indiana Public Service, to work at a plant in Gary, IN. I was young and into the Adventure but who in their right mind would move from Colorado to Gary, IN?


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Boulder Colorado

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

Boulder, Colorado, was and is a very cool city. Sure it is a college town in a beautiful setting next to the Flatiron foothills, but in the summer of 77 it had its own post Vietnam era independent vibe. Outdoor recreation was a growth industry. Frank Shorter helped to promote Boulder as a Mecca for long distant runners. Celestial Seasonings was evolving as a Tea provider supporting a very popular Red Zinger Classic Bike Race. 78BarneyCatPearl Street was the place to be. And this is where we ended up soon after marriage. We started out living in an apartment at Lake Tantra but soon ended up as the managers for Hill House Apartments at 10th and Marine. We also got our first pet when we got to Boulder, a cat we named Barney. Steve showed up occasionally and we were spending a lot of time playing frisbee, enough that we decided to enter the Colorado State Frisbee Championships that was held at the cU camp in Boulder. Our specialty was acrobatic throws and catches, which impressed the crowds but we did not have all the other disciplines down well enough to be a contender.

Sometime that summer as I was phasing out of Colorado International and preparing to attend Colorado University, I hooked up with Mock Realty Property Management under Ken Mock, which led to our opportunity to manage Hill House Apartments. This deal gave us an apartment and a small stipend for managing the apartments. The better deal though was working for the contractor who was responsible for reconditioning all of Mock Realty properties when their tenants moved out. tulagiI got paid a lot of money for throwing on a new coat of paint in these properties. Connie was working at the Penny’s Auto Center and doing some books for our apartments which all translated into a good enough financial situation to enjoy Boulder. Pearl Street was just a short walk, the Walrus became our favorite restaurant and we spent many a night on the Hill typically at Tulagi’s.

Studying with Barney’s help

Of course the reason for being in Boulder was to advance our intellectual and artistic endeavors. I did take the 2 courses I needed to graduate from Indiana University along with a few other very interesting Chemical Engineering classes. It was Igor Gamov’s course on chemical flow dynamics that actually got me interested in computers. The course allocated a nice chunk of computer time in the CU Computer Center to work on some flow dynamics programs. I think I spent 90% of my time focusing on that small component of the course. I even resorted to begging for more computer time even though I had completed all assignments. However, the seed was planted especially when I overheard a grad student talking about accessing the computer from his apartment via a terminal. That same course also offered some great field trips to experience chemical processing. The visit to the Climax Molybdenum Mine in Leadville was way cool and the tour of the Coors Brewery in Golden ending with an extensive tasting session was a fitting way to end my college time at CU.

Connie was pursuing a degree in Theater at Indiana U. but pulled out with a year and a half to go. However, she utilized this Boulder opportunity to study with Samuel Avital at “Le Centre du Silence” mime school and took acting with Robert Benedetti at University of Colorado in association with the Shakespeare Festival. I guess we both participated a few times in the script created for watching the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Boulder Theater. We also did a lot of hiking in and around the Boulder front range and continued to ski as much as possible. We had a few great nights skiing at Eldora Ski Mountain. Overall there always seemed to be plenty going on in Boulder. 

Barney the cat was working out for us, so we decided it was time to get a dog. We went to the Boulder Animal Shelter in hopes of finding the right dog in need of adoption. As we walked through the kennel there was a Black/Gold/White Shepard type dog that was sitting in silence amongst a kennel full of barking dogs.

We knew this dog was meant for us, however, he was not available for adoption for at least another week. Connie reminds me that I went back to the kennel everyday to sit with our hopeful new pet. When adoption was finally granted we named our new dog “Rusty”. The animal shelter required that we get him fixed but I felt like he needed to experience his libido so we got him a vasectomy. A few years later after too many runoffs for the smell of a female in heat we decided to get Rusty neutered. Rusty and sometimes Barney joined our walks down to the Boulder Creek parkway.

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Falls up Boulder Canyon

 

I still had a connection to my Christian Ministry roots so when I came across an opportunity for a paid Youth Leadership position at Mt Hope Lutheran Church I talked Connie into the commitment and we were sort of put in charge of the Senior High Youth Group. Maybe this was the initial stimulus which led to Connie becoming a Chaplain in later life. The experience was pretty cool culminating with a major effort to take the group to a youth conference in New Mexico. This was definitely a test for us to be grown-ups and I think we did OK. As the school year was winding down I landed a job at Arapahoe Chemical working as a plant operator. They were not hiring just for a student summer job so I failed to let them know that I was a student. This was also when I bought a Honda 550 motorcycle from a friend with plans to ride to Steamboat Springs for a short get-away. I was not an experienced rider so when I hit loose gravel on a turn coming back from Steamboat Lake, off the road and over the handlebars I went. This was one of those times when I believe God must have been looking over me since I was not wearing a helmet and I could have easily hit my head on the many large rocks in the field where I came to rest. I did, however, rupture a kidney which required a hospital visit and many days of recovery in Steamboat.

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Crazy Snow storm in May of 78

Well, Boulder had been great but that Adventure spirit was rising again. We even considered riding that Honda around the country which is what we told the church as the reason for our resignation. But of course a new adventure always presented itself. This time we were headed to Snow Mountain Ranch a YMCA property near Winter Park.

 


Next Post: Snow Mountain Ranch

Ended up as a maintenance man again at the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park, CO. This was a brief Adventure in very beautiful part of the Rockies as I was considering how my career needed to get started.

What is Backpacking Really about?

It is common to be asked why do I backpack. And there are many times on the trail, typically early in a season, when I ask myself the same question. My family doesn’t get it, most of my friends just think I am nuts, but many do appreciate that I let them share in the adventures. I think we all have dreamed of what we would like to be doing if we had a choice.

My View when I said Goodbye to Steamboat in 1987

For me those dreams were born when I was a young man Backpacking Colorado. I remember my last evening in Steamboat Springs before I was to move to the SF Bay Area to start my career with Hewlett-Packard. I sat on a hill with my dog, Rusty, overlooking the town and ski area and said goodbye to a great life, but I think in my heart I also knew that I would return to that life. That was my Second Quarter, I was confirming my passion as I prepared to pay my dues.

Yes, wilderness backpacking is not for most, but it is for me. When I am in these fantastically beautiful places I think about all the billions of people who are not, who can’t even dream of such beauty. That is when I confirm my passion. We only have so much time on this amazing planet and I want to maximize every minute that is left. You know it isn’t just about the adventure, it is also about the health. It feels good to be in decent shape. I’m 65 and the body does tell me that it is getting old. But to feel healthy is also a beautiful thing.

I am about to kickoff another epic backpacking season, and I am so excited. What gets you excited? Next week I do my annual trek around Mt Hood with a couple of good friends. But then I am off to Norway’s Lofoten Islands and then the Colorado Trail. This is my dream come true. The Adventure Continues

Hip Perspectives on “The Bleeding Edge” Documentary

After watching the documentary film “The Bleeding Edge” on Netflix I thought I should weigh in as a patient who has had both of my hips resurfaced, meaning my hip joints are metal on metal ball and sockets.

My Right Hip done in 2006

My 2006 Right Hip

The film is a very well done documentary that examines the $400bn medical device industry that reviews five products that have exhibited significant failures including the broad review of cobalt based hip implants. This is an important documentary that does expose the weakness of our regulation of the medical implant industry and sounds a needed alarm to those patients who may now be at risk.

I am focusing on hip resurfacing which was lumped into the broad exposure of any metal joints made from Cobalt. The greatest concern comes from these devices that actually operate with a metal on metal joint, and hips are probably the most common. My hips are made of a Cobalt-chrome alloy that is used because it creates one of the hardest and strongest metals known to man. These features are critical for a successful and enduring joint replacement. The premise for using a metal on metal hip as in my case is that the body naturally encapsulates and provides lubrication for the joint movement. The Co-Cr alloys show high resistance to corrosion due to the spontaneous formation of a protective passive film composed of mostly Cr2O3. The minor amounts of cobalt and other metal oxides on the surface appear to be contained by the body’s encapsulation. The documentary does not spell this out in sufficient detail, instead it broadly classifies any device made from cobalt as dangerous.

My History: My family has shown a propensity toward the development of an arthritis that creates some bone deposits in our hips. For me this has been accelerated by a life of sports activity, most notably basketball, that allowed this arthritic condition to wear away the natural lining of my hip joint. Once I understood this back in 2006 when I was 52 years old and in constant pain I had to figure out a solution. I had heard that hip replacements were good for 15-20 years which did not seem to match well with my age. I remember hearing about hip resurfacing in a 60 Minutes type segment on Americans traveling to India for this surgery. So I started investigating this alternative procedure. The allure for me was the fact that you could remain active and if needed down the road I could still get a hip replacement. Fortunate for me there was an orthopedic surgeon in Salem, Oregon, who was allowed to perform this surgery probably due to the FDA’s 510(k) pathway for approving medical devices as mentioned in the documentary. My first hip was his 439th hip resurfacing. I do believe that my second hip done in 2010 was from the same design and stock of the Cobalt-chrome implant.

I guess the point of my post is to let it be known that hip resurfacing can be very positive. So why have I not experienced any cobalt poisoning related medical issues? Obviously the surgery can be positive, however, it is true that many have experienced serious problems. Depuy, owned by Johnson & Johnson, was referenced in the documentary, however, there has been recall activity on cobalt based joints from Stryker and Smith Nephew. My theory for my success is based on the fact that the hips that were used for me were created in the early pre FDA approval period. I have asked who made my hips and I never got an real answer. They appear to be similar to the Smith Nephew BHR and the Wright Conserve systems. Maybe those early test hip parts were done with more attention given to the metallurgy involved. Possibly my success has to due with my lifestyle. I have learned that I cannot participate in physical activity that is based on radical lateral movement such as basketball or handball. What I can do is walk or backpack which I have done to the tune of about 2000 miles since my second hip surgery. So overall I am extremely thankful for this medical hip resurfacing technology.

I do hope that the FDA is able to improve the overall approval process for medical device technologies and it is good that documentaries are made to help bring attention to these needs. But we must also caution against blanket assumptions made to help sensationalize a documentary, such as all devices made with cobalt are bad for you.

 

 

What is in an URL?

I changed my primary Uniform Resource Locator, URL, to a name more fitting for the next phase of my life. Of course I am also trying to move past my Higher Education Technology focus. This change is not really worthy of a post, however, the experience surrounding the purchase and implementation of a new URL did capture my interest. I have wanted to switch for a while but I had not been struck by a name that seemed appropriate. But I have been referring to my blog in the sub title as “The Adventure Continues” and I have drifted around that theme with a number of posts. So I took the next step, checked WHOIS and voila, the name I wanted was available and affordable. I have always gravitated to the .org top level domain because I equate .org with non-commercial and I have no interest in monetizing my blog. For the most part, my blog is my archive of my adventures, so the Adventure Continues with a new blog name and URL.

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Image Credit Computerworld

Do you remember when the URL was everything. URL squatters tried to grab up all potentially lucrative names that at that time would typically precede .com or maybe .net. Of course today you can create about any top level domain but us old timers still feel a connection to the early pioneers. The other day I was in a meeting with students reviewing a proposal which had an URL printed in the documentation as a reference. I told the students that they could paste the url into their browser to review the site. One student giggled and said that she could not remember ever hearing someone refer to a web address as an URL. OK, that surprised me a bit. But really that was validation that the URL does not carry that much weight anymore. Content is king because search engines are all powerful.

I reflect upon this because of the emphasis my domain name provider tried to place on the importance of privacy for my domain name registration. They wanted to charge me $8 per year to make my whois registration private. If you have no idea what I am talking about open a terminal session and type “whois adventurecontinues.org”. I have owned URLs from the very early Internet days, back when the URL dictated whether anyone would find your site or not. Public whois registration information was important to validate the integrity of the site and of course let people know who they might need to buy the URL from in case it was highly desired. Unfortunately this is valuable identity information which today is considered an invitation to sell you something, primarily all sorts of help with monetizing your website. Since purchasing my new URL I have received 100+ emails offering me every conceivable service I might ever need to optimize my website. Luckily all of those emails end up in my Spam folder (thank you Google). I suppose I could have avoided those emails ending up in my Spam folder if I had paid GoDaddy an extra $8 per year. Maybe I should pay Google the $8 for making it easy to delete them all “Delete all spam messages now (messages that have been in Spam more than 30 days will be automatically deleted)”.

I can rationalize this decision to brave the dangerous world of public notification but then again, it will create further issues. I have always been good at protecting the distribution of my phone number and to a certain extent my home address, but this information is readily available via the WHOIS lookup. Oh well, I think I will take the risk. After all Life is just one Big Adventure.

Introducing our New Aussie, Brook

Brook

Brook

At the end of my Timberline to Cascade Locks backpacking segment I was crushed by the news that my beloved dog, Abby, had died unexpectedly. Abby was 12+ and not able to backpack with me any longer, but losing her at a time when I was experiencing a dream that she should have been sharing with me was tough. My wife and I knew we would find a new dog when we felt the time was right. Well this post is dedicated to introducing you to our new dog, Brook, another Australian Shepard who is destined to be my new backpacking buddy.

Brook came from Gearhart Aussies on the Oregon Coast about a month and we have survived puppy training.  Plenty of accidents have been cleaned up and not to much chewing damage has occurred.

Broncos Fan

Broncos Fan

There is a period of time with the new puppy where your lives are not yours. You have to cater to the needs of the puppy at the expense of your own desires. However, you know it is short-lived especially when dealing with the intelligence that comes with the Australian Shepard breed.

Brook is a Blue Merle Aussie with piecing blue eyes. Her color scheme is beautiful with perfect marking of the reddish fur. She has already shown her commitment to being a Broncos fan during last weekend’s AFC Championship. Now we will prepare for the Super Bowl.

We will also hit the trail soon to expose Brook to the discipline needed for backpacking. I like her disposition of displaying initial caution with strangers or unusual activity, however, she quickly evaluates the situation and reacts appropriately.

My wife works in a hospital and would like for Brook to possibly accompany her as a comfort dog for her patients. I think Brook will be perfect for this duty. But the primary job for Brook will be to provide companionship for us, function as a watchdog and allow us to love her unconditionally for the rest of her life. A Dog’s life is so tough.

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Here is a video recap of the Gales Creek Hike in Tillamook State Forest.

Return to the One Room Schoolhouse

I have seen a trend with my STEM connected colleagues over the last 6 months wanting to discuss concepts of adaptive or competency based learning, CBL. These discussions evolved for many reasons such as; lack of classroom space, course scheduling problems or issues surrounding non-tenure track faculty. This discussion is right on target when it occurs with younger faculty, however, now older faculty are asking questions and seem to be contemplating how this could work. Generally there is agreement that it is inevitable that education will move in this direction, but then you start talking about the repercussions of what that might look like to the higher education business model and fear returns to the conversation. I guess what is different is that now there seems to be recognition of the value of the learning model and discussions are tending toward how we might implement it.

Personalized Learning

I decided to write this post after a number of discussions yesterday, some stimulated by those who viewed CNN’s airing of the “Ivory Tower” documentary. As we talked about implementing adaptive learning to our STEM courses I was drawn to the vision of the old one room schoolhouse. STEM possibly more then any other academic discipline is based on building blocks or competencies. Math and the sciences dominate this with competency based requirements built into courses as well as with interdependencies between courses. So when I thought of the one room schoolhouse I saw it as similar to the students that we receive. In the one room schoolhouse students have to progress through levels of reading, writing and arithmetic, and they had a built in remediation process. The teacher was there to help at all levels.

How did we get to our current college degree attainment path based on taking a selected number of courses that may or may not actually give you all of the competencies that you or your employer desire? I think we used to have a much more standardized entry path to college. Students from high school, mostly Americans, had very similar competencies due to similar curriculums that could not be supplemented by additional information as is now available via the Internet. The over achievers could go to World Book, but for the most part if a student got accepted to college then they pretty much entered at the same level and the progression through a standard set of courses with a few electives worked fine. That world no longer exists. We have screwed up high school believing that standardized testing validates competencies. Combine that with the financial pressure universities are under to maintain enrollment and you end up with a freshman class that is much more in line with the one room schoolhouse.

Change is coming and it will be heavily influenced by competency based learning and I think STEM may be well positioned to adapt to this. We have been working on this concept in our general ed core curriculums of math and science. At first it was about trying to figure out online or hybrid learning but now we are starting to see how we may need to change the academic business model. The emerging CBL providers such as Western Governors are built upon a personalized learning foundation that allows the student to progress at their own pace. Tuition is based on a period of time not on credit hours, which creates the incentive of “the faster you progress, the more you save”. Maybe there is a hybrid version of this that can work for the traditional residential university.

I’m going to take a stab at what this might look like for STEM degrees. I’m looking at this as realist considering what might be acceptable for our entrenched higher education culture, today’s student and the political and financial forces that will inevitably force the change. The first 2 years of most STEM degrees are fairly similar based on the need to build a foundation of math through calculus, basic concepts for the sciences with English and physics typically being foundational as well. This is true for pre-meds through engineering and it is typically fairly challenging to ensure that we are not wasting our time on the students in the upper level of the degree program. So how about a one room schoolhouse for each STEM discipline complete with a set of competency based learning modules designed with assessments that provide adaptive options to complete each step. We have talented non-tenure track faculty always available and still teaching but not on a fixed lecture circuit. The environment would facilitate collaborative learning along with the necessary lab requirements. The student pays the same tuition, and heck we even keep the semester structure. The advanced students finish early or have more time for extra curricular activities such as undergraduate research or experiential learning options. As the student emerges from this general ed core they enter into the more traditional degree completion with the upper level courses and labs taught by tenure track faculty to complete their STEM program.

I’m going to stop here without digging into the obvious questions and details. But what do you think? I think it might be an improvement.

Reflecting on my trip East so far

I will blame not posting on my transition between jobs but I find myself in a hotel room in Rock Springs, WY on my way across America with some time for reflections. I am driving my beloved car from Oregon to Missouri via Denver where I will take in the ELI Conference on the 4-6. This Western half of the trip brings back many memories for me.
Leaving the Portland area through the Columbia River Gorge reminded me of the trip I took in the opposite direction in 2004 when I came to Oregon and George Fox University. What a dramatic portal it provides to the Northwest. I was extremely thankful that my trip east on a good highway was so much easier then Lewis & Clark had to deal with. I reference this concern because my entire trip in the heart of winter is a bit precarious in an Acura RSX that looks more like a snow drift to the trucks and snow plows that I have been dodging. Yes the Blue Mountains with snow packed roads kept me a bit tense. As I approached Salt Lake City with a plan to work my way down to I-70 for rendezvous with colleagues in Grand Junction, I had to abort due to a pesky storm hitting the area. Luckily diverting to I-80 worked out well and allowed me to reminisce about my earlier life in Mine Engineering and Electric Power Generating out of NW Colorado.
Rock Spring, WY, an oasis for coal miners in one of the harshest environments in the US. It is about 30 F and the wind is blowing 40 mph as it typically does. But there is coal in these parts and rivers to set power plants next to. Now they have added wind powered generators so there is plenty of electricity flowing out of this desolate place helping to light the cities of the West. Tomorrow I hope to make it to Steamboat Springs, assuming their recent 2 feet of snow does not stop me. There are still good friends and lots of memories there.

Continental Divide between I-80 and Baggs, WY

Continental Divide between I-80 and Baggs, WY

Update: I tried to get to Steamboat Springs but turned around at the Continental Divide on the road to Baggs, WY. Glare ice, 40 mph wind and big trucks caused me to reevaluate the risk/reward and decided to drive to Denver via I-80. The next day I did get to go Fly fishing on the head waters of the South Platte near Decker, CO. And yes, I caught a nice trout.

Final update, I did make it to Rolla. Bought a house the first day, love S&T and Rolla, MO.

Hip Resurfaced

I have been out of commission for a few days thanks to receiving a new hip Monday by way of the Hip Resurfacing procedure. Amazing technology on all fronts. I was a strong candidate for resurfacing being younger with strong bones. It appears playing way to much basketball along with some arthritis from my mother wore out my natural hips, but these chrome-cobalt ones are actually better. No more basketball but handball and golf work fine.

I will put a plug in for resurfacing, definitely explore it vs. Hip replacement. It was recently FDA approved.

PS – created this post with the iPad, had to revert back to old editor due to Flash incompatibility. Lack of Flash is definitely the biggest problem with the iPad. Have been using the iPad on and off for a day and a half and I’m at 57% charge. This heartrate monitor connector on my left pointer finger is a bit annoying as well.

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