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September 20, 2005

Who Will Audit the Red Cross?Email This EntryPrint This Article

redcrosslogo.jpgEveryone is on the Red Cross bandwagon these days.

But that was not the case before Katrina. The Red Cross was fiercely criticized for its reaction to 9-11. The criticism was bipartisan.

All was forgotten once Katrina hit. The only alternatives offered for giving wre overtly-religious organizations, ranging from the Salvation Army to Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing (number two on the Administration's hit parade).

Besides, you've got to figure, this was really more up the Red Cross' alley than 9-11, which in the end only took out the center of a well-insured central city, and completely displaced only a few tens of thousands. This was different, not just New Orleans but the parishes around it, and Mississippi all the way up to Jackson.

So how are they doing?

Continue reading "Who Will Audit the Red Cross?"

September 09, 2005

The New Normal: A View from AtlantaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

tucker parking lot.jpgYesterday, for the first day since Katrina, the city of Atlanta seemed to return to normal.

The traffic jams were back. The parking lots at the Tucker Wal-Mart (pictured) and Target were full. I even overheard customers chatting amiably about good things happening in their lives, and laughing.

But the New Normal is a mirage. It’s not real. It’s made possible by Governor Perdue’s short-term cancellation of the state’s gas tax, and by the Administration’s decision to go back to dirty gas and suspend EPA rules.

The gas tax is going back up, next week. And gas prices are headed higher, much higher.

Continue reading "The New Normal: A View from Atlanta"

September 01, 2005

The Dry Drunk MemeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

bush finger.jpgThere is a long-running charge, or meme, on the left that President George W. Bush is a "dry drunk," an alcoholic who hasn't dealt with the roots of his alcoholism, and thus exhibits alcoholic behavior even when sober.

Dr. Justin Frank explored this in a book called Bush on the Couch. Katherine Van Wormer made the charge in 2002 and Malachy McCourt has gone further, writing in his short 2004 book, Bush Lies in State that he’s still an alcoholic.

How common is this meme? Example one. Example two. Example three. Example four.

So here is my point. Given his falling popularity and recent bizarre behaviors (running away from Cindy Sheehan, comparing Iraq to World War II while New Orleans died) I'm wondering if this meme isn't about to move.

Continue reading "The Dry Drunk Meme"

August 31, 2005

Logistics of New Orleans' Kidney TransplantEmail This EntryPrint This Article

kidney.jpgA Great City must be evacuated. Then it must be rebuilt.

After the people are gone -- all the people -- the logistics of what must happen in New Orleans next are daunting. We're talking about debriding America's gaping wound and rebuilding a kidney on a massive scale:

  1. Two levee breaks -- one of which is 300 feet long -- have to be repaired. You ever try to stop water from going where it wants to go?
  2. The water inside New Orleans has to be drained, to somewhere. It's filthy, deadly, where is it going to go? It might kill the Gulf, but were else can we put it?
  3. The sewer system has to be re-built, because until it is you can't get to
  4. Everything has to be hosed down, cleaned, and disinfected.
  5. Only then can you begin a true damage assessment, and chances are nearly every wooden building in the city will then have to come down. Where will all that debris go?
  6. Only then can we even talk about rebuilding.

It's the biggest civil engineering job ever attempted.

Continue reading "Logistics of New Orleans' Kidney Transplant"

August 09, 2005

HIPAA and Unintended ConsequencesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

hipaa-lock.jpgLike many protective laws, the HIPAA law covering the protection of your medical records comes with a small business exemption.

The exemption works both ways. Small businesses who fund their own plans don't have to comply. Neither do medical providers who don't computerize. As an NFIB alert on the law states, "Health-care providers -- such as doctors, nurses, on-site clinics, etc. -- are exempt from these regulations if they do not transmit electronically, but this exemption applies only to providers, not to group health plans." (Boldface is mine.)

The result of this is that small practices now have a major incentive not to computerize, and not to transmit anything electronically. Thus, they don't.

Continue reading "HIPAA and Unintended Consequences"

July 19, 2005

Is Chris DeWolfe Worth $580 million?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Rupert murdoch.jpgThat's what Rupert Murdoch has paid for him, buying his Intermix Media and its prime asset, MySpace.

UPDATE: Techdirt is pointing out that Intermix, the parent company, is also a notorious producer of adware and spyware.

Fox has never had an Internet strategy. This was partly because Murdoch wouldn't pay top dollar for Internet assets. But it was also because he has kept his Internet operations on a short leash.

By spending big to get MySpace, which has taken over the business of social networking around music in the last year, Murdoch is changing his tune.

But it doesn't matter unless DeWolfe, who launched MySpace just two years ago with Tom Anderson, has a second strategic act in him.

Continue reading "Is Chris DeWolfe Worth $580 million?"

July 13, 2005

My Personal Spam WarEmail This EntryPrint This Article

spam.gifE-mail service here may experience some delays as I undergo a personal trial by spam.

In this case it's a Joe Jobber, most likely a spam gang, that has grabbed both my e-mail address and my server's IP address to illegally sell prescription drugs without prescription.

For the last few days I've been firing off myriad alerts to uce@ftc.gov, the government's address dedicated to fighting fraudulent spam, with no response.

A domain registrar called Yesnic is apparently cooperating with this spam gang. They're the registrar of record on every Joe Job in this bunch. Most of the registrations, on investigation by me, seem to be made-up, but two carry the actual name, and a legal address, fo someone in Columbia, SC. This criminal should be easy to find if someone is interested.

Meanwhile, we learned today that the most popular anti-spam technique, like the so-called CAN SPAM Act that enables spam in the U.S., is in fact becoming a spammer favorite.

Continue reading "My Personal Spam War"

June 29, 2005

An Always-On EndorsementEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Always On Server_small.jpgIt's nice when "real" (paid) market analysts agree with one of your premises. Especially when it's a key premise to you, as Always On is to me. (This is advertised as an Always On Server, from Virtual Access.)

So I was pleased to read Chris Jablonski's recent piece at ZDNet, Forget P2P, M2M is where the next party is.

M2M stands for Machine to Machine (ironically this sits right below an item about how poor most tech nicknames are) but we're talking about the same thing, intelligent sensors linked to wireless networks. Programming the sensors to deliver some result, then automating delivery of the result in some way (sending an alarm, telling the user, etc.) is what I mean by an Always-On application.

As I have said here many times the tools are already at hand, and cheap. We're talking here about RFID chips, WiFi and cellular networks, along with standards like Zigbee that let these things run for years on a single battery charge.

There are problems with every application space, however:

Continue reading "An Always-On Endorsement"

June 27, 2005

The Hedy Lamarr of Early TVEmail This EntryPrint This Article

paul_winchell.jpgBy the time Paul Winchell died, last weekend at 82, the BBC was only able to point out that he had done the voice of Tigger for Disney.

He was so much more. Like Hedy Lamarr, who created the technology underlying WiFi, he led a double-life, as an intellectual in the fun house.

For starters he was the first TV star I remember, one of many models for what became The Simpsons' Krusty the Klown. He had a morning show with puppets, more entertaining (I thought) than Kaptain Kangaroo, with more brain and heart (I thought) than even Fred Rogers. The puppets, which he made himself, were called Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff (right).

What I didn't know at the time was he was also a polymath, with a wide range of interests and a photographic memory. One of his interests was medicine. As an entertainer he manuevered into the worlds of famous physicians, including Dr. Henry Heimlich (then Arthur Murray's prospective son-in-law), and with his help won the first U.S. patent on an artificial heart.

There was even more to his life than that. He sought early funding for the farm-raising of tilapia, He was a skilled painter. And, of course, he was a ventriloquist and a subversive humorist who emphasized the fun of the mind.

Taken directly from his own Web site (he was working on streaming video at the time of his death) is a list of his inventions (remember he was self-taught):

Continue reading "The Hedy Lamarr of Early TV"

June 13, 2005

Medical Always-On Niche ProspersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

ehealth.jpgDespite what the snarky set may say, medical applications for Always On technologies are starting to get real interest from people with money.

An outfit called Wirelesshealthcare in the UK has come out with a report called "101 Things To Do With A Mobile Phone In Healthcare."

The only unfortunate thing here is that the writers of the release on this interesting report call the area eHealth.

My problem is not with their intent. A rose by any other name and all that. My problem is that the term eHealth is stifling, limiting. It minimizes what is actually happening, and isolates wireless network applications to one small field.

Continue reading "Medical Always-On Niche Prospers"

June 10, 2005

Dismissing Always On ApplicationsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

engadget crying baby.GIFOne reason I (unreasonably) went off on Jamais Cascio is because I'm sickened at how the press generally treats Always On solutions. They only see the threats to civil liberties and tend to demean the potential user base.

After Jamais (rightfully) went after me I began looking for an article illustrating this point. It didn't take long to find one. (And the picture at right is from that very story.)

Here it is. It's a piece by Thomas Ricker of EnGadget on what are some really nifty Always On applications in the medical field.

He gets it all down, the fear of "Big Brother watching you" and the outright contempt for the infants, parents and older folks who might need this stuff.

Given all the deaths from SIDS I would think parents would love a mattress that could warn you before your child dies. Given the ravages caregivers face with Alzheimers (not to mention patients), a network of motion sensors telling you when you really need to help grandma (and when you don't) sounds like a very, very good thing indeed.

Continue reading "Dismissing Always On Applications"

May 25, 2005

Doctors in the Land of LudEmail This EntryPrint This Article

caduceusstlouis.jpgAre you an American in e-mail contact with your doctor?


I didn't think so. (This fine bronze of a cadeusus, the medical profession's symbol, is by James Nathan Muir, who wants patrons for putting copies on all the world's continents.)

There are two reasons why you're probably not in e-mail touch with any of your physicians:

  • Many doctors are afraid to put anything down, in writing, which might come back to bite them. This is often recommended to them by their peers and professions.
  • Many doctors use a loophole in the HIPAA statute which makes them exempt from its requirements so long as they don't computerize.

As a result most doctors remain in the Land of Lud. And the cost to their patients is immense. I just spitballed a few:

Continue reading "Doctors in the Land of Lud"

May 11, 2005

Is A Drug Danger Story Being Ignored?Email This EntryPrint This Article

European Society of Cardiology-official logo.jpgAs of 9 AM Eastern on May 11, most of the U.S. media seemed to be ignoring a very important medical story from the Netherlands.

Only UPI, according to Google News, had written it up.

The story is that some very common drugs have been implicated in sudden death from heart attack. The study was done at the Erasmus Medical College and published in Europe's leading journal on cardiology. A press release on behalf of the journal was released in Washington.

The drugs examined were:

Continue reading "Is A Drug Danger Story Being Ignored?"

April 19, 2005

Old Girl NetworkEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I declined to get involved in the Larry Summers sexism affair. (That's Larry at left, along with other future cast members of Saturday Night Live.)

But an opportunity has come to make a relevant comment, and brag on the old alma mater at the same time.

One big difference between Harvard, where Summers is President, and Rice, where I went to school, is that Harvard has an extensive Old Boy Network and Rice does not.

As an alumnus it pains me to admit this. Rice offers a high-quality education, better than Harvard in many ways, but once you're out you're on your own. There's no big power network in New York and Washington waiting to give you a leg-up.

But we're now seeing the flip side of this. Rice is a pure meritocracy. If you've got the goods, the Owl will shine his light on you. Harvard openings often go to those in the know, or those who know those in the know.

This may be why Larry Summers has trouble finding high-quality female scientists. Rice has had no trouble at all in that regard. In fact, the new Rice engineering Dean is Dr. Sallie Keller McNulty. The science dean is Kathleen Matthews, who chaired the search committee.

That is not all. Far from it. Dr. Rebekah Drezek and Dr. Jennifer West of the biochemistry department have recently found that silica-gold "nanoshells," another form of the Buckyball first found at Rice 20 years ago, can help cure cancer through imaging. They were following up on pioneering work on nanoshells by Dr. Naomi Halas, an electrical engineer. Dr. Halas, in turn, is currently being featured on PBS' Nova.

Continue reading "Old Girl Network"

March 02, 2005

Alzheimer Result Is Its CauseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The last time we were on the trail of Alzheimer's Disease, which killed Ronald Reagan, my next-door neighbor, and doubtless several great friends of yours, we learned that its risk factors were just like those of heart disease, high cholesterol which causes plaque to form in the brain's blood vessels.

Now scientists at UC San Diego have found a precursor condition that's just as important. Before symptoms are even apparent, proteins start clogging the pathways of axons, the nerve cells whose connections and re-connections represent actual thought. (The axon above is from a Coventry, England pain clinic.)

Continue reading "Alzheimer Result Is Its Cause"

February 28, 2005

Girl Scouts, Kidneys and Slippery SlopesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Back when e-commerce was new, some Girl Scout troops decided to get a jump on their neighbors by offering their wares online.

The national organization successfully snuffed out this form of e-commerce. Check out Google on any keyword relating to the cookies (which go on sale soon in your neighborhood and mine) and you won't find any outlets.

The Girl Scouts got away with this restraint of trade because, frankly, it wasn't fair for the non-savvy girls to see money flowing only to those whose parents knew the online ropes. Money raised from sales is shared, after all, between the national organization, the local troop, and its community organization.

What does this have to do with kidneys? Plenty.

Continue reading "Girl Scouts, Kidneys and Slippery Slopes"

February 25, 2005

One Word: PlasticsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

That's right, gang. The old joke from The Graduate is here again, aiming to drive silicon into the ground.

Nanomarkets, a market research outfit with a beat that looks like tons of fun from here (call me) has a $2,000 report out with a hockey stick chart for plastic semiconductors, estimating the market at $5.8 billion in 2009 and $23.5 billion three years after that.

Plastic electronics -- chips built on conductive polymers and flexible substrates, will be cheaper, take less power, and (obviously) be more flexible than silicon circuits. This makes them perfect for, say, mobile phones.

It will also bring a bunch of new suppliers to the electronics market, names like Dow Chemical, DuPont, Kodak, and Xerox, along with the usual suspects.

What does this mean?

Continue reading "One Word: Plastics"

February 23, 2005

The Return of VoiceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Since the collapse of Lernout & Hauspie, voice has been diminished as a computer interface.

But it makes sense. It's hands-free. It requires training, meaning it brings some security with it by default. I continue to believe in it.

So does IBM.

Igor Jablatov is the man behind IBM's voice strategy. He's based in Charlotte, and has a blog, which mainly prints and links to stories and news release relating to VoiceXML. (Jablatov now heads the VoiceXML Forum.)

The Voice Extensible Markup Language brings voice into the Web standards area, and it's important for that reason. But what's more important is the extension of voice into specific vertical markets. IBM has started with things like cars and consumer electronics, and next plans a move into CRM.

These aren't the markets I would have chosen, but for now voice needs to choose markets based on their money making potential, nothing else. And I trust that IBM has done that kind of analysis here.

Where do we go from here?

Continue reading "The Return of Voice"

February 08, 2005

Pull My Finger (Or Pull My Leg)Email This EntryPrint This Article

The digirati are in a fury today over claims by an outfit called i-mature which claims to have solved the problem of age verification with a $25 device that checks a finger's bone density to determine just how old you are.

The image, by the way, is from Vanderbilt University, which has no affiliation with either Corante, i-Mature, or this blog. It describes x-rays of a finger taken at different power settings. Go Commodores.

RSA announced "a joint research collaboration" with the company. But there is skepticism over exactly how precisely a bone scan can measure age, and the more people investigate, the more questions they raise.

Continue reading "Pull My Finger (Or Pull My Leg)"

January 13, 2005

A Complete Always-On Medical SystemEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Researchers in Ohio have developed a complete Always-On heart monitoring system.

This is big stuff, a real "killer app." I lost my best teacher ever, Dick Schwarzlose, to a heart attack last year, an attack that could have at least been treated had his doctor known it was coming.

Hundreds of thousands of men and women die each year from sudden heart attacks which are not detected, but most of these people were known to be at risk based on factors like their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. (Heck, I'm at risk for those reasons.)

If this solution can be productized and delivered with, say, the client monitor and communications hidden inside an Under Armour shirt (wicks away the sweat and looks wicked cool), then many lives can be saved, and many middle-aged men can look marvelous at the same time.

Details follow:

Continue reading "A Complete Always-On Medical System"

January 07, 2005

It's Not CholesterolEmail This EntryPrint This Article

It's not cholesterol that makes your heart go phlooey. It's what cholesterol sets in motion. (The illustration represents conclusive proof that Yale does indeed have a heart.)

What cholesterol seems to do is set in motion the creation of a protein, called C-reactive protein, that in turn creates systemic inflammation. Everything's revved up to deal with cholesterol (or some other threat), but this in turn leads to long-term weakness that results in death.

So next time you get your blood checked, have them look for how much of this protein is in there. The good news is the same statin drugs that drop cholesterol also work here.

Oh, and put down that doughnut.

January 03, 2005

Back To Balls For BuckyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

For some time interest in Buckminsterfullerene, the unique form of carbon created at my alma mater, has focused on Buckytubes, not Buckyballs.

A Buckyball is a single carbon-60 molecule, shaped like a tiny soccer ball. If you don't cut off the ends, and instead extend the shape into a tube, you have a molecule of almost limitless size, and with enormous strength. A space elevator, as I conceive it, is basically a circled Buckytube that reaches from a point at the Equator to geosynchronous orbit, so that a cab coming up one way is matched by one going down.

But in the short run that's science fiction. There is a lot of proof-of-concept work to do before you can really go after the money, and there we're talking of billions-and-billions.

What Buckminsterfullerene needs, more than anything, is a profitable market that will spur further development.

And now it has found one.

Continue reading "Back To Balls For Bucky"

December 21, 2004

Another Mobile Phone Health WarningEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Science is infuriating.

You almost never get the yes-no answers you seek, just some data and a request for more money. (The illustration is from an Australian government page on the health effects of mobile phones.)

Sorry about that. If you want certainty go to a preacher. They may be certainly wrong, but they are bound to be certain.

The latest edition of the Reflex study , funded by the European Community, indicates there is some cellular damage from using phones at the recommended power levels. But how bad is it?

More money, please.

Project leader Franz Adlkofer said, "We don't want to create a panic," then added some sentences bound to create panic, advising against the use of a mobile phone when a fixed line phone is available, and for the use of a headset whenever possible.

Scary stuff. But here's why you should not panic at all.

Continue reading "Another Mobile Phone Health Warning"

November 30, 2004

Your Mother Was RightEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Scientists at the University of San Francisco have found that your mother was right -- you can worry yourself into an early grave. (Used as a plot device this could have made a big hit out of Jim Carrey's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, available from Amazon.Com.)

New Scientist reports on a study of 58 young mothers, some with sick kids and (thus) more stress. It found that telomeres, a sort of "cap" on the end of each chromosome that promotes genetic stability, are shorter in the women under stress than those without worries.

In young people telomeres are renewed by an enzyme called telomerase. Think of it as renewing the plastic caps on the end of your genetic shoelaces. As we age, the enzyme disappears, so the ends get frayed, the genes don't reproduce precisely, and we age. Worriers had less telomerase, and shorter telomeres.

So do yourself a favor and stop worrying so much. You really will live longer.

September 13, 2004

Why The Wi-Fi Market Is StalledEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The 802.11 market is stalling.

I know because Broadcom has warned that its sales are flat.

Broadcom absolutely rocks in the Wi-Fi chip market. It is constantly ahead of the curve. It has great relationships with OEMs and product marketers. TI and Intel look good, but no one plays the inside game as well as Broadcom, trust me.

And if Broadcom is catching a cold, then everyone else has pneumonia.

Why is this?

Continue reading "Why The Wi-Fi Market Is Stalled"

August 26, 2004

Of Mighty Mouse And MenEmail This EntryPrint This Article

We're reaching the limits of chemistry. (Buy your poster of Mighty Mouse here.)

One vital point few commentators mention today is that fewer new chemical compounds are coming to market against disease. This is one of the problems that's fueling the drug industry's consolidation.

The future lies in manipulating genes themselves. We've seen stories just in the last weeks about scientists creating mice that have more endurance and are stronger, even cattle that are leaner and more muscular.

You got a problem with that?

Continue reading "Of Mighty Mouse And Men"

Health Care Technology Standards Needed StatEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I have written several times about how antiquated computing is in the area of health care.

Politicians are starting to take notice of the same thing. (Registration Required)

Fortunately this is a bipartisan recognition. The Post comment above is written by the Republican Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist (right, from CNN), and a leader of the minority Democrats, Hillary Clinton.

But what are they really proposing?

Continue reading "Health Care Technology Standards Needed Stat"

August 24, 2004

Bad Reporting Raises Blood PressureEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I am coming to believe the American press is biased...toward stupidity. (Illustration by the marvelous Danny Filippone. Every doctor's office should have a poster of this one, don't you think?)

Here's a perfect example of bad reporting, a bylined report on a medical Web site about one-third of Americans having high blood pressure.

Read the story all the way through. Is there any definition of high blood pressure, or the correct way to measure it? No.

Fact is the American press has become so dumbed-down by low salaries and publishers' agendas that most paid reporters can't even read a press release, let alone ask a decent question based on one, or report accurately on what they read.

Continue reading "Bad Reporting Raises Blood Pressure"