Texting for Toddlers? Not At Goggs Avenue.

I’m very wary of technology in Marley’s toys – I think there is plenty of time for learning how to use technology.  Later.  First come some basic person-type things like self-esteem, social interaction, and compassion.  Anyhow who argues that kids today need technology to stay with the curve aren’t grasping that kids adopt technology much faster than their parents did when learning it.  I am certain marley’s going to be able to text faster than I can type at some point in the future, but why rush there?  Patience, as always, is the right way to go.

Here’s an article discussing the issue.  Technology companies are marketing to 3 year olds (or more accurately their weak-willed paranoid parents) – the cigarette companies paved the way and pointed out that brand loyalty starts early.  Why would Leap Frog be any different than Marlboro, for example?  They’re not sleeping on those mounds of money because they feel good about your child’s exposure to electronic and articfial intelligence.  There’s big money in toddlers today, don’t kid yourself (pun intended).

Vaccines In The News Again – Sometimes

As a parent surrounded by other parents I know that the topic of “vaccine safety” is on most parent’s minds.  Sure it is a small sample size, but it is what it is.  An interesting aspect to the controversy surrounding the topic is the question of where do people get their facts from?  Where do we learn about the most recent scientific discoveries and findings?  The truth is, most of us rely on the media.

Here’s a great example of where the media is giving us misinformation by not giving us any information at all.  6 papers ran a story about how the MMR vaccine was being linked to asthma.  When the results actually came back and there was no link, did the 6 papers run the updated information?  No, its not really as interesting, is it?

We (media consumers) have to be careful about how we interpret and act on information provided by the media.  They really aren’t on our sides, for the most part.

Open Source Can Help You Too

Here’s a great example of how Open Source software can be leveraged, even in the health care field, to provide a quality product.  This breast ultrasound device uses a modified version of Ubuntu to provide an interface for the user.  The team even sent an email to the development team to thank them for their work – nice touch (and great advertising – I immediately went to the career section of their website).

My question now is did they choose to release any modifications or enhancements they’ve written back into the community?  Taking is only part of the equation (the easiest part, but still only part of it).

A Good Yarn Improves With Age

In reading my daily dumb quotes calendar this morning I came across a brief story of Engineer Charles Steinmetz.  I’ll quote another site that has done a write up:

Here’s an interesting anecdote, as told by Charles M. Vest, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, during commencement on June 4th, 1999. “In the early years of this century, Steinmetz was brought to General Electric’s facilities in Schenectady, New York. GE had encountered a performance problem with one of their huge electrical generators and had been absolutely unable to correct it. Steinmetz, a genius in his understanding of electromagnetic phenomena, was brought in as a consultant – not a very common occurrence in those days, as it would be now. Steinmetz also found the problem difficult to diagnose, but for some days he closeted himself with the generator, its engineering drawings, paper and pencil. At the end of this period, he emerged, confident that he knew how to correct the problem. After he departed, GE’s engineers found a large “X” marked with chalk on the side of the generator casing. There also was a note instructing them to cut the casing open at that location and remove so many turns of wire from the stator. The generator would then function properly. And indeed it did. Steinmetz was asked what his fee would be. Having no idea in the world what was appropriate, he replied with the absolutely unheard of answer that his fee was $1000. Stunned, the GE bureaucracy then required him to submit a formally itemized invoice. They soon received it. It included two items: 1. Marking chalk “X” on side of generator: $1. 2. Knowing where to mark chalk “X”: $999.”

Now other sites have him asking for $10,000, while others have him simply pacing around the machines for a few moments and figuring it out.  I prefer the quoted version because it feels the most real to me.

A nice little story about the value of knowledge.  Note that he lived from 1865 to 1923.

Avoid Radiation (Duh!) – Challenge Your Doctor (Huh?)

A fellow McKesson employee forwarded on to me an article about how people are failing to grasp the severity of medical images today (can we blame Oprah for this one?).  Yes, having a CT scan is painless, quick, and effective – but is it necessary?  A CT scan is a massive amount of radiation being flooded through your body.  It shouldn’t be something taken lightly and if you’re recommended to take one by your doctor you should really take the time to make sure it is necessary.

But what about your kids?

As usual, the kids get the stinky end of the stick.  The article mentions that some modalities have a pediatric setting, but techs may not know about it or may not use it.  Kids are particularly susceptible to radiation damage too, as their cells are dividing and growing much more than an adults.

How serious is all this?  The article gives a few good numbers:

Exactly how much radiation is too much? Because CT scans came into vogue in the 1980s and radiation-induced cancer takes roughly 20 years to develop, long-term studies of CT scans and cancer are still under way. But scientists are already anticipating future health implications. Indeed, researchers found a population of 25,000 Japanese post-atomic-bomb survivors who were exposed to roughly the same amount of radiation as two CT scans. Based in part on those studies, the Food and Drug Administration estimates that an adult’s lifetime risk of developing radiation-induced cancer from a CT scan is roughly 1 in 2,000. Worse, the risk for children is even higher.

Compared with adults, children are more sensitive to radiation because they have longer life expectancies and because their cells divide more rapidly, making their DNA more vulnerable to damage. A child’s risk of developing a fatal cancer from one CT scan is as high as 1 in 500.

1 in 500 risk of developing a fatal cancer from one CT scan?  Those are some numbers that I think should make you think twice about needlessly obtaining radiation-based medical exams, particularly for your kids.

So who’s up for one of those fancy-shmancy radiation-free MRIs?  What?  No longitudinal studies for adverse effects at all?  Well, I’m sure the doctors wouldn’t do anything dangerous with me, right?

Say Cheese, Dirtbag

Maybe you’ve heard that our car was broken in to twice over the last two months? Well, not technically broken in to, as we had forgotten to lock the doors at night. But it was sitting on our driveway and we thought we lived in a safe enough neighborhood. Maybe my bike being stolen out of our carport should have tipped us off earlier, but, well, maybe I’m thick-headed.

So I decided to have a little technical fun and setup some surveillance. A webcam connected to my computer running a motion detection software package (love Open Source … see the motion project). And look who came to visit us last night around 4am?

(click picture for a video)

I’m sure the police will be interested in watching my little video. FYI the little white squares are where the software is detecting motion.

Next steps are to see if I can get a better resolution out of my webcam, and maybe even place one down in the carport to figure out what he did in there for 10 seconds.

Don’t mess with a geek little man!

Oops, There’s Placenta In My Supplement?

The FDA issued a recall announcement a few days ago that caught my eye.  The primary eye catcher was this one:

Finally, the company is recalling Seng Jong Tzu Tong Tan, a product that contains human placenta. Human placenta may transmit disease and dietary supplements that contain it may not be lawfully marketed in the United States.

I can’t imagine a product designer saying anything like “I know!  Let’s put human placenta into the supplement!” but apparently it happens (or it did happen).  The next question is where are they getting human placentas from?  I trusted my hospital when it said it would be incinerated … so my question now is “Was it?”

Oh, and then my next question will be “What products with human placenta can be lawfully marketed in the United States?”


Today is my 34th birthday – ta-da! In the spirit of birthdays, here’s a story about births – kind of. Those wacky scientists have gone and figured out how to make either sex unnecessary for conception.

Where will society take this? I can certainly see some benefits here, but again I have to ask – just because we can … should we? This may be valuable in some situations which then leads down the slippery slope of it being used in inappropriate situations. Human imagination can make for a slippery slope indeed.