Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Number one is Microsoft Project. This program does painfully little that I couldn't do in Excel, and is infinitely more difficult to use. Everything is automated, making it impossible to do anything useful: it may be a good tool for planning an office move or a system implementation, but not for a major, multi-faceted management and service project.
Number two is Lotus Quickplace. For those fortunate enough not to have ever heard of this monstrosity, it is a web portal tool. The interface is mostly text, without any of the advantages of a text interface. It is bloody difficult to navigate, uploading and downloading are tedious, multi-step processes, and customization is very limited.
Finally, we have Ultimate Survey. A forms-based web survey application, this would have been a great tool for the questionnaires I developed and sent around for 200-level psychology classes. However, it has so many features lacking I can't even begin to describe them. For instance, it will only export files as .csv, but will not let you block respondents from using commas in their answers. So, you get totally garbled data, with all kinds of extra columns and errors. Even better though is the fact that the program's "handlers" don't work properly from remote access: so you can't actually develop your web-based survey, you know, on the web.
How can we defeat this Axis of Evil? Simple: make programmers directly answerable to people who actually have to use the bloody software. Aack!
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Monday, December 27, 2004
J'ai pris un overdose de sensibilité et voilà - on ne trouve pas de remède et je n'arrête pas d'en prendre.Now back to your regularly scheduled program.
Berkeley neuroscientists have performed a really fascinating study on olfaction, and found that the brain has a sort of sensory gating mechanism, that tunes out most of the smells in our environment until they either exceed a certain intensity threshold, or are attended to. Really amazing stuff. (On top of the head, Harvard researchers seem to have identified a (the?) cause of hair graying.)
Another group of scientists are working on a new colonoscopy tool, that is supposed to be safer and more comfortable, based on the paddleworm. The device mimics the worm's physiology and movements to move itself up the intestine by 'pulling' rather than being pushed like a traditional endoscope. This apparently is thought to be less stressful to the body.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Whenever I read stuff like this, I want to go do it. Maybe not in the arctic (I'm not so big on the cold), but trekking through the jungle or climbing a mountain or something. Perhaps someday I will.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Tweed is often worn by fops, but many otherwise admirable men wear tweed from time to time without apparent adverse effects.All in all a brilliant contribution to the scientific literature, complete with exquisite methodological humor and even a totally gratuitous jab at ethicists (who are in dire need of more jabbing).
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
The thing is, what will be the side effects? Of the compounds mentioned there, I've only had experience with one: Donepezil, or Aricept; various patients at the hospitals and senior centers where I've worked have been on it. It seems to help their Alzheimer's, yes, but the side effects are brutal: nightmares, blood pressure problems, sweating, and sometimes hallucinations. Thanks but not.
Modafinil sounds like the one I'd want to try. But I'm sure I won't, given that I'm (a) too poor and (b) know better than to just go pill popping at random. Oh well, maybe soon they'll add it to the water!
Friday, December 17, 2004
My question: why are professors wasting their (and their students') time on this crap??? I happen to be quite sure there are plenty of actual, non-fictional crazies within the limits of the City of London who would more than qualify as subjects for students' case studies. And why is the BMJ bloody publishing it? Does this crap even count under the 'publish or perish' guidelines of academia??
Insulin is also key to how the body handles food. And how we eat, as we all know, has big effects on our health, particularly on our cardiovascular health. A new diet regimen, proposed in a possibly tongue-in-cheek fashion, that will allegedly reduce risk of cardiovascular event 76%, sounds pretty good to me. It includes, fish, wine, garlic, vegetables and chocolate. Some of my favorite things. It may or may not make me healthier, but it sounds tasty!
Thursday, December 16, 2004
"Shrinking molecules caused some concern among the physicists...[t]he prospect of such equipment being used by hairdressers was deemed worthy of further investigation."
It would make more sense to me if they just started breeding them back in with the pure lines, diluting the unsuccessful mix but perhaps retaining some of the introduced variety that you expect to be helpful. That's what bothers me: genetic variation should be good for the animals. I wonder what's up that has been left out of that article.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Is it you?
Also/Update: Ever have someone come up turn in a paper (or whatever) they've written, and you want to say "This is totally sub-par," but realize that since you are going to edit it anyways, "agrammatical crap" is now, in fact, the gold standard? Yeah, let's start a club.
Most people's reaction (including my own) is to immediately question the ethics of a practice. Ethics are a funny thing though, in cases like this you really have to think about line-drawing, which always makes me uncomfortable.
"The use of a technology to fulfill parental desires is viewed as vain, capricious and frivolous."This may be, but it is no basis for a legal decision about ethics. For all the Puritanical bluster about such things, people are allowed to be vain; and, to be fair, the entire American economy is built on frivolousness.
Then there are those who say that they would terminate (i.e., abort) pregnancy if they got a result they didn't want. Ugly? Yes. Unethical? Probably. Would they do the same thing in the case of a 'natural' pregnancy? Most likely - someone who's willing to abort an IVF pregnancy will be willing to abort a 'natural' one for similar reasons.
A third argument against sex selection is that it will place undue burdens of expectation on the resulting kids: that if daddy wants to have an athlete son, and selects a boy baby, who then turns out not to like sports, he'll be disappointed and take it out on his son, etc. Blah, blah, blah. You know what? My parents wanted an athletic, heterosexual son who'd go to medical/law/business school and make shitloads of money. They got a geeky queer son who does not play well with others and isn't sure what he wants to do, except that it isn't gonna pay well. Do they nag me constantly? Yes. Would they force me to go to med school like they did to go to tennis camp? If they could. Is this situation much different from anyone else's? Not as far as I can see. Parents always have high expectations for their kids, and some kids don't exactly fit the bill. That's the way life goes.
As for whether or not parents should be choosing their kids sex (or eye color, or whatever comes next), I don't know.
Monday, December 13, 2004
Friday, December 10, 2004
This brings me to another pet peeve of mine. The whole "suspension of disbelief" concept. I view this as a symptom a very dense reader. If you are reading fiction, you accept the author's rules for the universe of the story. In Rowlings' world, there are wizards and Dementors and hippogryphs. If you can't accept this as true, because it's not the way this world is (as far as you know), you should stick to reading elementary physics textbooks. There is nothing in those that will challenge your view of Reality.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
While hearing all about what can go wrong during pregnancy, men may be eliminating the problem altogether: spending time with a hot laptop on your lap may lower fertility.
A new study has identified a key aspect if immune response to HIV. And the Red Queen rears her (most likely but not necessarily) ugly head.
Another step towards being able to realistically use hydrogen as a power source: researchers claim a breakthrough. The link seems to have been slashdotted, but a description is here.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
"An analyst is a device for turning coffee into reports." - adapted from Paul Erdos.
I wonder if an analysis of pro/Olympic boxing or wrestling would bear this out?
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
I would really like to write and say a lot more on these, but my time is scarce these days and my attention span is short (my version of Seasonal Affective Disorder, perhaps?), so I shan't. I know at least some of you should have things to say about this.
On the downside, an ingredient in many shampoos and moisturizer may be dangerous to gestating fetuses. I wonder if we'll hear from these people about that?
Also of interest for those looking to have kids: being born in May may increase chances of developing Multiple Sclerosis later on, while being born in November may decrease them. This could be crap, but the vitamin D hypothesis is conceivable, so you know, get your freak on around Valentines, not Labor day.
UPDATE: Kids whose mothers were depressed duing pregnancymay be at higher risk for behavior problems.
Friday, December 03, 2004
And today from DOQRAPS, we have an apparently credible (until now, perhaps) Oxford scientists who claims that we'll all soon be living 1,000 years. Now, I don't buy the boredom argument against eternal youth (I could easily spend that long reading all the books currently on my list, let alone those to be added!), nor am I concerned about playing God (we may have created him/her/it ourselves anyway), but really, until extraterrestrial colonization becomes easy and pleasant, we need to keep the population explosion as under control as possible. Earth will get really crowded really fast if no one dies predictably. Also food will be a problem.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
A study, published today, does not say what its authors (and certainly much the
It demonstrates an association between pot smoking and psychosis, yes, but the data in no way suggest that pot smoking increases your likelihood of developing psychosis. Previous research has shown that THC acts as a natural anti-psychotic, and so the results of this study do make sense: people predisposed to psychosis are self-medicating, which they are already known to do with tobacco (nicotine is enhances cholinergic transmission, a deficit in which is a symptom of schizophrenia). I really wish people would just step back and do some serious science on pot/THC. It clearly has so much bloody potential to do amazing things, if only we could actually examine it!
Following up on yesterday's post, today brings more bad news if you're a neuroblastoma. I don't really understand how it works, but scientists have found that injections of the herpes virus kills tumor cells. That's pretty cool, but kids, this is not an excuse to guzzle OJ while having sex with hookers.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
To those certain political groups and politicians who want to just cut these women off, leaving them to 'fend for themselves' - which they will never do, they'll always have to go to safetynet healthcare providers and their kids will be more likely to turn to crime unless their situations improve - in the name of it being 'expensive to help them: think of the taxpayer money that was needlessly spend studying this obvious idea!!
Liminoids, a compound found in citrus juices, has shown great promise against a certain type deadly childhood cancer. Well, I didn't get childhood cancer. Must have been all those screwdrivers!!
Another cancer I plan on not getting is that of the prostate. This nasty man-killer appears to be rather effectively thwarted by green tea polyphenols. I love tea, and green tea especially. We've already learned that it may boost memory, and fight leukemia, so drink more of it!