Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Quote of the Day: Louise Erdrich on Life

Saw this on a friend's Facebook page, and wanted to re-post it here.

"Life will break you.  Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning.  You have to love.  You have to feel.  It is the reason you are here on earth.  You are here to risk your heart.  You are here to be swallowed up.  And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness.  Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could."  - Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum LP

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cryptosporidium - Ah, the Memories!

Here's a story that ... well, it doesn't warm my heart, exactly.

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
"Milwaukee marks 20 years since Cryptosporidium outbreak" by Don Behm

Other links:
From the Helio article:
To date, the Milwaukee cryptosporidiosis outbreak is the largest epidemic of waterborne disease reported in U.S. history.

I remember that time well, all too well.  Consider this quote from the Journal-Sentinel article:
In the days before Norquist's announcement, most of the reported illnesses were concentrated on the city's south side. City officials on April 8 took the unprecedented step of shutting down the Howard Ave. filtration plant until it could be cleansed of the parasite.
I lived on the south side.  In fact, I lived exactly 1.3 miles from Howard Avenue water treatment plant, the center of the outbreak.  I never had a chance.  :(

I was very, very sick.  It was so bad that I actually went to a doctor's office--which I NEVER do!  They prescribed some penicillin for me and I was on my way.

Except ... I quickly learned that I am allergic to penicillin!  That was it.  I was completely knocked out.  I missed a whole week of work.  I asked a co-worker to bring a computer home (we didn't have personal laptops back then, but we did have some "portable" computers) so I could do some work but I never used it once.  I just lay on the couch all day, barely conscious.  The only time I got up was to drink water, try to eat a little bit of food (and keep it down), or to use the toilet ... which I had to do OFTEN.

As the article describes:
Surveys determined about 403,000 people in the five-county metropolitan area were sickened with watery diarrhea between late March and early April of that year, according to Davis.
Yes, indeed, I was in that group of people.  My apartment was not a pleasant place during this time.  Watery diarrhea indeed!  I have never been so sick in all my life, before or since.

On the bright side, it was the best weight loss program I've ever seen.  I lost 20+ pounds, easy, and I wasn't nearly as fat then as I am now so that was a good chunk of weight to lose.  I was skin and bone after that week of eating nearly nothing.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Eye Phone?

Consider this article, from IEEE Spectrum:
"Eye-Tracking Software Goes Mobile" by Ariel Bleicher

The article talks about "the potential to transform the way consumers interact with their devices." It talks about new applications (drivers dozing off, chefs browsing recipes), which is great.

But I think technology like this might better suited to help people with physical limitations interact with their devices on a very basic level, a level that most of us take for granted. For instance, my uncle died with ALS. Unable to speak or move at the end, but still mentally sharp and still able to move his eyes (I saw him a few hours before he died), he could really have benefited from this technology. I'm sure people with other disabilities would also benefit.

From Wikipedia:
"...although bladder and bowel sphincters and the muscles responsible for eye movement are usually, but not always, spared until the terminal stages of the disease."

From both National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and
"ALS does not affect a person’s ability to see, smell, taste, hear, or recognize touch. Patients usually maintain control of eye muscles and bladder and bowel functions..."

So when I see technological advances like this, I think of ways in which we can improve the lives of people with certain diseases.  I hope to see many more such advances.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Rise of Google?

Interesting article about the rise of Google, and the underlying trends and business models that Google appears to be counting on.

From Datamation:
"How to Understand the Rise of Google"by Mike Elgan

The article has an excellent summary:
Two or three years ago, people might have said that Apple was on the rise and Google was in decline. Today, people say Google is on the rise and Apple is in decline.

Pundits and press are generally confused about why this is true. They say it’s because Apple used to make better stuff, but now Google does. But that’s wrong.

The best way to understand the main difference between these two Silicon Valley giants is to divide the consumer electronics world into products and services.

Apple and Google both make products and services. Products include hardware and software, and services include things like, say, iTunes or Gmail. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Apple is a product company. Their services exist to support their products.

Google is a services company. Their products exist to support their services.

The shifting fortunes of these two companies is less about which company is succeeding and failing and more about which model is succeeding or failing.

Right now, the product model is on the ropes, and the services model is on the rise.

The author did a little experiment.
As an experiment, I have put away my MacBook Pro, iPad and iPhone for the month of May and am instead using only Google hardware. In addition, I’m using only Google software and Google services.

This experiment has been amazingly easy so far. It has been easy in part because I was already a heavy user of core Google services like Google+, Gmail, Contacts, Calendar, YouTube, Chrome, Maps, Search and others. Since beginning my Google experiment, I’ve become an even heavier user of Docs, Now, Keep, Drive and others.

And it’s taught me something devastating about the difference between Apple and Google: I could live without Apple. But I would not be willing to live without Google.

I can get great products from multiple sources—Apple, Google, Samsung, HTC and a world of software startups. But I can get the best services only from Google.

By the end of Google I/O, I believe the new direction for consumer technology will be clear. With the commoditization of products, the new focus of differentiation is on services.

In other words, the world is shifting in Google’s direction. When consumers choose products, they will increasingly choose them based on how well they connect to the services that really matter.

People might choose Android not because Android phones are better products, but because they do a better job of connecting to services. Likewise, people might choose Apple for the same reason—because they judge that Apple products do a better job connecting them to services.

It’s all about services. And that’s the house that Google built.