Category Archives: Education

Greetings and Salutations

(Close of a letter to the President of Pennsylvania)  Your Excellency's Most obedient and most humble servant - Thomas Jefferson

(Close of a letter to the President of Pennsylvania)
Your Excellency’s
Most obedient
and most humble servant -
Thomas Jefferson

Good day,

It’s interesting, and perhaps a little embarrassing, to compare communications styles over the ages.

Paul the Apostle begin his letter to the Church in Thessalonica with, “Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the Church in Thessalonica which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace. We always thank God for you all, mentioning you in our prayers continually.”

It was common in Colonial times to begin a letter with a variation of, “I hope this letter finds you and your family well,” and even George Washington closed his letters with “Your obedient servant, G. Washington.” It was such a common complementary close that it was often abbreviated as “Your obdt. svt.,”

When I was learning to write, we began each letter with, “Dear” even if we had never even met the person, and usually closed the letter with “Sincerely.”

Today, few write letters; as a matter of fact writing anything of length or consequence, being content to text, tweet or snap a selfie.

Wishing you a fine Sunday with family or friends, I remain yours truly,

Steve

CDC and Ebola

Spanish flu treatment center Smithsonianmag.com

Spanish flu treatment center
Smithsonianmag.com

My congressman ran a poll asking his constituents if they were confident in the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) ability to combat Ebola. He’s probably sorry he asked, because this is how I responded. Obviously these are my own opinions (aren’t they always?), although I did try to check basic facts (number of dead in World War I, etc.)

I spent 30 years in the healthcare industry, starting off in a technical clinical discipline, and later, after completing my graduate degree I moved into management and was a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Administrators. My current position includes support for emergency management.

CDC is very good at doing certain things, but their best work has involved basic research, which doesn’t mean “simple” but getting to the root issues behind a scientific question. Basic research is often the most result oriented because instead of jumping to a search for the solution, it instead focuses on learning about the problem without preconceived notions. The classic example was when Dr. Fleming noticed that something was affecting the other bacteria in his experiment. By studying this “something” he discovered penicillin.

It appears that in recent that the attention of the leadership of the CDC has been drawn away from basic scientific research and become more focused on political issues, which well may have impacted their effectiveness. For example, there are reliable reports that CDC has spent significant effort to shut down doctors who believe in treating chronic Lyme disease. Some physicians believe that the organisms that causes Lyme disease, and an associated disease, babesiosis can become dormant in a patient, but when triggered by trauma, or other events, the symptoms become active again. Although not scientifically proven, patients have reported improvement when treated with a regimen of certain antibiotics and anti-parasitic drugs.

The CDC has not proven these conditions do not exist, which is understandable given that it is impossible to prove a negative. However, they have taken this issue on as a crusade and allegedly gone so far as to classify this as a Homeland Security issue in order to justify the use of legal authorities and law enforcement techniques.

Unfortunately, they have not been quite as enthusiastic at adhering to basic, proven infection control techniques they haven’t exerted the same amount of effort to adhere to basic protocols resulting in the exposure of CDC personnel to anthrax and the loss of at least one container of viable small pox. Incidentally, small pox was the first chemical weapon when the blankets of small pox victims were given to Native Americans, thereby intentionally introducing the disease to the indigenous population of North America.

I’ll give the CDC the benefit of the doubt. I think they can handle this IF the politically appointed and wanna-be-police types get out of the way. Should we cut off contact with western Africa and deprive them of essential expertise, medicine and equipment? I think not. While it may be politically unpopular, until effective treatments or vaccines are perfected, quarantine may be the most logical step. The health professionals actively working with Ebola patients at the handful of designated hospitals are the best trained and equipped. However, mistakes are made, equipment fails, and while the doctors, nurses, therapists and technologists may follow the protocols correctly, is it possible for a housekeeper or a maintenance person to become infected? I think so.

It may be wise to quarantine people who have been exposed to Ebola. The Ebola hospital staffs may just have to live and work within the confines of the facility for the duration. It’s an inconvenience but our military men and women have been living with such inconveniences for the past eleven years, all the while being shot at, rocketed, mortared and the target of suicide bombers and IEDs.

If the USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy – the Navy’s 1200 bed hospital ships are not being deployed elsewhere, they could provide medical care as well as quarantine. Those exposed and being monitored would not have to live in military austerity, but instead could be housed in nicer accommodations to make the experience less painful; a hotel leased by the government, or perhaps a cruise ship. Nice accommodations, but safely out of circulation until everyone is sure that the individual is not infected

If everyone exposed to Ebola were quarantined for 28 days, it just might prove to be significantly cheaper to pay for lost wages and accommodations for these people than to let the disease spread. If the CDC puts the science and safety first, they’ll succeed. If the politics and power struggles take precedence, stand by. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. The “Spanish” flu of 1918 is estimated to have killed between 50 million and 100 million; by comparison, the total death toll of the Great War (World War I)— all military and civilians—is estimated at 43 million.

Bottom line—let the scientists do their job.

Windows 10

Not the real logo  - or is it?

Not the real logo
- or is it?

After the fiasco of Windows 8, Microsoft has decided to forego Windows 9 and jump right to Windows 10. There may be several reasons for this:

  1. By skipping a number they can bypass all the customers who would suggest that Windows 9 was just the repair for the Windows 8 disaster and should be free.
  2. They’re emulating the observation that until the reboot, fans had noted that, “Even number Star Trek movies don’t suck.”

Good luck with that.

Here’s my well-worth-the-price free advice.

There’s a time for a tool that has a wide range of capabilities. I love my Gerber that fits in a small holster on my belt and can be configured as pliers, wire cutter, screwdriver, bottle opener, knife, etc. If you reference “Swiss Army knife” people immediately visualize the hand red handled tool and the concept of versatility. Both are wonderful products, but if I were being wheeled into surgery and saw either of those on the tray, I’d run out of the room, even if already under those high power pre-op drugs.

Neither a man nor a tool can be all things to all people.

So, last night I rooted my tablet that I use for software defined radio to allow it to speak Linux as well as Android.

Maybe Redmond should review the following educational video (85 seconds).

Shimmer

https://screen.yahoo.com/shimmer-floor-wax-000000185.html

The Worst Thing to Happen to an Inventor

Thomas Alva Edison

Thomas Alva Edison

When Thomas Edison was asked about his failures while trying to develop a practical light bulb, his reply was, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”*

Inventors are driven to ask why; to find out what comes next. So are they happy when they get everything just right?

For inventors, the thrill of the hunt is the chase, not the kill. When all the challenges are met, all the goals achieved, it’s time to either take it apart and try something different, or else immediately find a totally different challenge.

Our minds tell us, “I’ve successfully found out how to do this; now in order to learn I need to try something new.”

* The World Bank. 1994. World Development Report 1994: Infrastructure for Development. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press…” (via Google)http://darwin.nap.edu/books/NX006728/html/35.html

Time, Time, Time

See what’s become of me.

Another masterpiece from Simon and Garfunkel. Great cover by the Bangles. Totally awesome guitar riff.

In the real world – time means that, just like everything else I possess, I am passing my time to others. My daughter’s soccer tournament; my son’s college preparation meeting.

This is how it’s supposed to be.

However, unlike so many challenges in life, it’s got a great guitar riff.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnZdlhUDEJo (Simon and Garfunkel 1966)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taf8fYP9Y-A (Bangles 2008)

Life and music; music and life. They go together so well – almost as if there were some Supreme Being helping us through all these challenges.

But, if you read scripture, you know that God loves music, so there’s no surprise here.

And a one, and a two….

 

Pity My Wife

Christopher Lloyd, genius as Emmett Brown, genius

Christopher Lloyd, genius as Emmett Brown, genius

If you’re a fan of Back to the Future (yes, I know it’s an oldie; well, it’s an oldie back where I come from) you may noticed that Doc Brown was a bachelor in 1985, 1955 and 2015. Did you ever wonder why?

Of course not.

One hundred twenty-seven clocks and a studio apartment-sized amplifier (with a very slight chance of overload). The guy talks to pictures, and names his pets after famous scientists; and all the scientists are male – where the heck was Marie Curie given his polonium fascination?

Then there was his unquenchable thirst for knowledge. (“Is this a robbery?” “No, it’s a science experiment!”)

Emmett Brown was the penultimate absent minded, obsessive compulsive, mad AND absent minded scientist. It was only when, after trying three other time periods, he finally met the right woman. A teacher with a love of real science who was also enamored with science fiction. The one woman for him.

Incidentally, it’s curious that his time machine needed to hit 88; when ham radio operators send “88” in Morse Code it means “Love & Kisses.”

On the other hand, my wife is the only woman for me. However, for her it’s kind of like living with Doc Brown. I drag home all kinds of things to feed my science habit. Don’t look in the bottles and jars on my microscope table unless you really like unusual insects and such.

Wife: “What’s this wire?”

Me: “It’s part of a project; you know.”

Wife: “You got another package today. What is it?

Me: “It’s connecting cable to allow RS-232 TTL signals to be interpreted on a standard USB bus.”

Wife: “Well, you ask a stupid question and you get…”

 

Wife: “Why do you need another computer tablet?”

Me: “Well, the other ones are busy and this one will be running software defined radio.”

Wife: “But didn’t you just sell one on eBay?”

Me: “Yes, but that couldn’t run actual Android, so none of the apps I need will run.”

Wife: “Well, you ask a stupid question and you get…”

Now, in all fairness I do have some good points, I cook; I help around the house; I chauffer kids, and when it comes to their science projects, it’s all mine. I even handle the student driver issues. However, to the other wives out there—if you get frustrated by clothes left on the floor; if you don’t understand why your husband who has a PhD in electrical engineering can’t run the dishwasher; if your husband collects old cars, or beer cans, or golfs every weekend…

Feel fortunate—you don’t know how lucky you are compared to my wife.

Police Military Equipment

swatThere’s been a lot of coverage in the news about police departments getting surplus military equipment from the federal government. Now I understand police work is a tough job and there are bad people out there, but I don’t think it’s fair that only the police get the leftover equipment. The Los Angeles school district not only has an armored vehicle but also grenade launchers.

I want some, too.

The first thing I want is one of those stainless steel milk dispensers used in y military dining facilities that get milk to that just right, perfect, wonderful temperature for cold milk.

Then, bring on the chocolate chip cookies!

Oh, and while you’re at it, add a soft-serve ice cream dispenser.

Next I want one of those cots that we all had to sleep on in every base of every type throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. That way, if anyone decides to visit, and I don’t want them to stay too long, I make up the cot. With such a lumpy, squeaky, miserable place to sleep, unwanted guests would stay one night – if they last that long.

With all the media coverage of the heavily armored vehicles, I’ve tried to think of some type of nifty high-tech surplus conveyance that I’d like. Unfortunately, having served, I know they all guzzle fuel like Uncle Louie at ano-host bar. I think they average about twenty-eight gallons to the mile (not miles to the gallon) and need about a hundred thousand hours of maintenance for every hour you drive. Besides, based on personal experience I know they’re terribly noisy and no matter how big they are on the outside, the inside is cramped, uncomfortable and smell bad.

So, on second thought, I’ll pass.

Send the milk coolers and chocolate chip cookies to the police departments – maybe it’ll put them in a better mood.