Sunday, July 27, 2014

What if road laws treated bicycles as first class citizens?

Roads were not always the dominion of cars, and traffic laws were not always written only for cars. It took decades, and significant cultural transformation, for pedestrians to become 2nd class citizens.

There’s change in the air though. Sweden launched Vision Zero in the 90s. Dutch experiments showed the safety and health value of segregated bicycle travel. Manhattan launched a bicycle share system with far fewer fatalities than anybody expected. Over my 20 years in the Twin Cities I’ve seen amazing growth in our local bikeways.

States like Idaho (!) are thinking about what traffic laws would look like if they weren’t written only for automobiles. While we pray for autonomous vehicles, and while we build more segregated bicycle trails and better sidewalks, we can also think about what balanced laws would look like. For example… 

Current stateCarNon-car (bicycle, pedestrian, inline skater, etc)
Stop Sign Stop until clear Yield
Red Light Stop until green (no right turn on red) Stop until clear (Stop sign where cross-traffic doesn’t stop)

A car passing a non-car with less than 3 feet of clearance would be penalized as though it had run a red light. All cars would be required to have proximity detectors, and violation of the 3 foot rule would result in an automatic ticket…

See also:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My home remedy for a volar (palmar) ganglion cyst

Age has many insults. Among the minor ones are lumps and bumps that come and go — like the Ganglion Cyst of the Wrist. These cysts are annoying, common, and weirdly mysterious.
I like the theory that at least some of them are due to a “a rent in the joint capsule … allow leakage of synovial fluid into the peri-articular tissue. Subsequent reaction between this fluid and local tissue results in the creation of the gelatinous cystic fluid and the formation of the cyst wall”. In plain language, some tear in the joint capsule causes joint fluid to leak and the tissue around the join tries to seal the leak with a thick fluid plug.
These usually happen on the back of the wrist, but I’ve had two on the palm (volar) side of my right wrist. One showed up in 2012 and another 2 years later. Oddly enough, I don’t recall seeing many of these during the five years I was a country GP. I’ve probably forgotten em.
When it first happened I researched the medical literature. I didn’t like any of the options - particularly for palm-side (volar) cysts. Surgery is expensive, prone to complication, and not terribly effective. Aspiration (puncture skin, try to suck out thick fluid) did no better — though it can work better on the dorsal side. It wasn’t clear splinting did anything, and smashing the cyst with “a bible” is problematic for dorsal cysts and ineffective for ventral. The best option seemed to be to do nothing and wait. Except that a volar cyst is a real pain when typing - which I do most of the day.
So I made up my own treatment. I taped a coin over the cyst and wrapped it with tape. Something like this:
Which work great for a day or two, until elastic tape and skin traction made for a nasty burn-like dermatitis. Good thing I was experimenting on myself. So then I went on to make a soft fabric strap out of “Get-A-Grip” multi-use velcro straps …
Ganglion Cyst Splint 3
and I taped a quarter to the strap:
Ganglion Cyst Splint 4
No more nasty skin traction (the transparent tape on the top right is tegaderm, treating my iatrogenic dermatitis/burn).
When I did this in 2012 the cyst had been established for a week. The micro-splint relieved typing discomfort and didn’t get in my way. After a few weeks of wearing it, and a regular splint when sleeping, the cyst abruptly flattened. I don’t know if it drained back into the joint, but it felt that way. I wore the micro-splint for a week or so and then forgot about it. I was careful to keep my wrist straight, though not terribly careful. Sometimes I did palmar pushups instead of straight wrist fist pushups.
Now I’ve got another one. I’ve recreated the splint, but perhaps because the cyst was new this time it flattened immediately. Maybe this time I’ll only need the velcro strap/coin for a week or two.
I doesn’t feel as though activity makes much difference — as long as I wear the splint and don’t extend the wrist (as in a palm-down pushup). So my CrossFit pushups are now fist down, and I’m putting my handstand pushups on hold for a few months (I’ll do wall-walk fist down, wrist straight instead — which should be more painful, hence better).
Caveat emptor. This isn’t science, it’s anecdote. If you try it, don’t blame me when your sarcoma metastasizes (not every lump is a benign cyst). 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Google shutdown policy - Orkut as a standard?

I played with Orkut briefly, so I received a shutdown notice for the 10 yo service around July 1.

Over the past decade, YouTube, Blogger and Google+ have taken off… We will shut down Orkut on September 30, 2014 …  You can export your profile data, community posts and photos using Google Takeout (available until September 2016). We are preserving an archive of all public communities, which will be available online starting September 30, 2014. If you don't want your posts or name to be included in the community archive, you can remove Orkut permanently from your Google account…

Bit of a comedown for G+ to be mentioned in the same phrase as Blogger, a service that’s always seemed one meeting from extinction.

I don’t remember how much notice we were given prior to the Google Shares/Reader shutdown, but I’m guessing Orkut’s 3 months will be a Google standard. Likewise the 2 years of Google Takeout. The public archive feature may be a case-by-case decision.

What’s next for shutdown? Google Voice is being merged into Hangouts, but I suspect many of the call routing features of GV will go away with a 3 month warning (or perhaps spun off into a business product?). Blogger has been next-in-line for so long it almost seems immortal. G+ Facebook-like features look doomed; seems there can be only ONE Facebook — but the end of Twitter might add a few years to G+ social. Otherwise I’m not sure what’s left to kill — more a matter of less pure ad-support and more a mixture of paying for services and ads.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

How quickly can businesses adapt?

iTunes Radio is at least partly funded by music purchases. But now people don't buy music, they stream it.

Similarly, we rent movies, we don’t buy them. I think people still some game add-ons for their phones, but I don’t think the current business model for game apps is all that healthy. Elite software, like Aperture and even iPhoto, is a dying business. There is now exactly one viable product for prosumer photo management on both OS X and Win 8. Those two platforms cost billions to produce, and they are arguably dying legacy products.
There are answers to all of these business issues, but the cycle times are very short. One obvious answer leads to a sort of death spiral; enter new markets quickly, ride the surge, then walk away with growth phase revenue. Then abandon the product. It’s a potential death spiral because with each cycle a certain percentage of customers drops out from churn fatigue. It’s the technological equivalent of slash and burn agriculture, a strategy that works until one hits a carrying capacity limit.
I wonder how something like this would show up in measures of economic productivity and GDP. It feels a bit “singular”.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Why Apple killed the most important applications on the Mac: Aperture and iPhoto

A bong smolders in the sanctum sanctorum of 1 Infinity Loop, Cupertino California. It’s early 2013 and Apple’s most powerful billionaires are looking ahead. Billions of dollars are overflowing Apple’s bank accounts…

“We’re screwed. Totally f*cked. Gimme that bong”.

“Yeah. I know. It’s bad. Google is gonna stomp us. Android owns the world. Schools are gonna do Google Apps on Chromebooks. We were wrong about phablets and now the iPad is gonna die. There’s no way we can catch up with Google Docs.”

“Yeah, we’ve all seen the numbers. We get a few good years … then boom - we’re Microsoft. Damn. Gimme that …”

“Sh*t. We gotta do something. Google’s got the numbers and the Net — how can we fight that?”

“We got something. We got the hardware. We gotta take a different angle and hope Samsung slits Google’s throat — because they hate Google even more than they hate us.”

“There’s plan B. Ditch everything where we ain’t making big money. That pro-software sh*t - we make more money in a day’s iPhone sales that we make on a year of Aperture. Nobody makes money on high end stuff any more. And look at our iPhoto sales — sucking wind for years. Ditch it, ditch it all. Hell, dump the Mac. We’ll be all “internet of things”…”


“No? Hey you sure you don’t want some of this T ..”


“No and Plan B is suicide. We can’t fight Google there. They’ll slaughter us. We gotta go with Plan A. We gotta make stuff that works for the low end and the geeks. We have to do the whole thing and we gotta stop screwing up the software. We screwed up iTunes. iCloud - everything on iCloud. iPhoto — oh, God, we screwed that one so many ways. - took  two years to fix that. iBook — you ever try using that piece of sh*t?. We got money — but we don’t have time. So we get better.”

“Plan A? That’s bad stuff man. We blow that, we’re done.”

“Plan A. And we’re gonna start with stuff we shoulda owned. We’re gonna start with photos. Nobody can manage their photos. People take thousands and lose ‘em all when they drop their phone in the toilet. Photo geeks have thousands in Aperture and they lose ‘em all - no backups.”

“Hah! You think we can do this? We had a great app with iPhoto, but we couldn’t add Library Management because that was an Aperture thing. Then we were five years late with a single iPhoto to Aperture library. We made iPhoto stupider, but we couldn’t make it easy to use. Sh*t we were idiots.”

“Aperture! Hah, that was joke. How many geeks every figured how to use our keyword tree? Even Brainiacs didn’t get that one. Where’d we buy that crap UI from anyway? Looks like something from NeXT.”

Screen Shot 2014 07 04 at 9 00 29 PM

Enough. We do Plan A. We’re gonna make a single application that works with a Phablet or an iMac, one app that scales from kids with phones to camera geeks. Elite and civilian — all of ‘em. We’re gonna burn our bridges — we’re gonna make it official. iPhoto and Aperture are dead.”

“Wow, we’re gonna have a lot of mad customers. But, hell, what are they gonna do? It’s easier to change gender than to move from Aperture to Lightroom — and Adobe ain’t gonna last much longer anyway. There’s no money in pro software, and they got nothing else.”

“So how do we do it? We should be classy. Let folks know we’ll keep the apps going until everything’s set. They’ll be bummed, but we know how to do this right.”


“No?! What do you mean no?!”

"We gotta make Google think we’re idiots. We’ll let it slip out through some blogger mac geeks read. We’ll give ‘em nothing. We’ll make it look like we’re pissing off our best customers. Google won’t suspect a thing. Hell, what are they gonna do? Go to Lightroom?!”

“Pass me that bong”.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Tax refund fraud targets health care workers, exploits big hole in IRS security

I missed this last year, but it’s worth knowing about. The usual suspects are exploiting weak security on tax returns; they steal identities, file returns, get refunds. Often targets physicians for obvious reasons — they tend to have large refunds and physician information is notoriously easy to steal from low security licensing databases.

If it were a corporation with this kinds of security weakness they’d be sued out of existence, but we can’t sue the Feds. 

The IRS is very slowly rolling out a PIN to include with returns to establish (relative) authenticity. There were arrests in late 2013 but this fraud is only going to grow over the next few years unless the security upgrade is accelerated. That would require serious bipartisan political pressure.