I’m off to Beantown, on a just-over-24-hour trip for another interview. The sad thing is, the part I’m most looking forward to is the train ride, since it’s a guaranteed four hours in each direction when Shannon and I can just sit back and relax, without any question of having to rush around and get stuff done.

I can only imagine the havoc that a water-cooled laptop computer is capable of wreaking.

I happened upon a hosting service catering to weblogs today, and was happy to see that one of the people behind it is a certain working mom. Blogomania looks to be a good deal — a hosted MovableType (or GreyMatter) site, a decent amount of disk space and transfer bandwidth, and both access to raw and processed log information, all for not a lot of money. All this is to say: if you’re in the market, you may want to check them out.

This has been a good week.

Back in mid-January, I applied to ten fellowship programs. Yesterday, I heard from the tenth; I got interviews at all of them, and now, I need to start deciding if I feel good enough to cancel any of the interview trips, or if I should just go and be dazzled by them all. It’s a good decision to have to make; I had absolutely no concept that I’d be in the position to do so, and I’ve been walking around with a huge grin on my face for the past few days because of it.

Yesterday, I was in my clinic, and was pleasantly surprised to see a patient on my schedule that I haven’t seen in a few months. He looked great — you’d never know that he spent a week of his first month of life in a pediatric ICU with an RSV pneumonia that nearly killed him. I was even happier to hear that, despite plans to move to the central Bronx, his parents have no plans to start taking him to another pediatrician.

Lastly, even though it’s only for 24 hours, Shannon and I are getting away tomorrow night, to go to Boston for my second interview. I’ll see an old friend, visit an amazing hospital, and spend two relaxing train rides reading and dozing. Should be nice.

What is real? (415) 564-1347.

Pretty high on the list of fears for infertile couples must be finding out that the donor of the sperm or egg has recently been found to have a late-onset hereditary disease.

The more I read about the upcoming Shuttle mission, the cooler it sounds. The official goal of the mission is to perform routine maintenance and repairs on the Hubble Space Telescope, but nothing about the flight is routine — there will be five spacewalks, each lasting over six hours, and when finished, the Hubble will have entirely new solar arrays. It’ll also have a new camera (with over 10 times the resolving power as the old one), a new cooling system to revive the long-dormant infrared camera, and a new power unit. That last one is the cause of the greatest complexity; in order to replace the old unit, the Hubble will have to be powered completely down, for the first time ever. (Quietly, engineers are holding their breath, hoping that the telescope powers back up without incident.)

Oh, great — just when I was getting all comfortable and crap with the current DVD standard, along comes a new one. The nine big tech companies have come to a tentative agreement on the Blu-Ray standard, which will increast the capacity of DVDs sixfold, and allow faster playback and easier computer recording. The only thing that will remain the same between today’s DVDs and Blu-Ray discs is the size; given the upsides of the change, though, I’m not complaining too much.

If Microsoft were to release an operating system with a built-in mail server that allowed anyone, including spammers, to relay mail through it, we wouldn’t hear the end of it. If someone else — say, Apple — were to do the same, we would barely hear a peep.

I’m the first to admit that, sitting here in the middle of NYC, I started tuning out the news about anthrax pretty early, maybe in a fit of denial. Because of that, I found the New Scientist’s catch-up article on everything that’s happened in the anthrax investigation pretty enlightening. For instance, I didn’t know that it’s now a definitive fact that the anthrax came from the U.S. military strain; I also didn’t know that the army has continued to produce weaponized anthrax. The investigation is ongoing, and in part hinges on the development of techniques to allow the differentiation of the strains of anthrax at each of the dozen U.S. research facilities (which all derive from the same one). At each stage, though, it’s become clear that nobody was prepared to investigate something like this, and we may end up having to rely on the very institutions for protection which were compromised and allowed the anthrax release to occur in the first place.

I could easily spend hours and hours of amazed bliss staring at Scott Kim’s various visual inversions. Each link in his gallery is another example of an amazing blend of visual design, symmetry, and even trickery to produce damn cool results. No, really — go take a look, it’s worth the time. [via MeFi]

Wow — I honestly had no idea that anyone still had hope for recovering the black boxes from the two flights that hit the World Trade Center towers. It’s hard to imagine that they’re really going to be found.

So, tomorrow holds in store my first fellowship interview. Eeeep!

So, there’s been a small wouldn’t-even-conflate-it-to-a-redesign here tonight; it was inspired by being very tired, but knowing that if I went to sleep early, I’d wake up at 3 AM totally wired. Of course, there are a few issues still outstanding:

  • I think that I want to make the background a nice neutral gray — #CCCCCC, to those of you in the know — but two opinions tell me it’s a no-go. So meanwhile, I borrowed Tigerbunny’s background, which looks pretty nice.
  • Why does Mozilla put a few pixels of extra space below the logo at the top right? I’ve already spent more time than I care to admit trying to fix it; I need to do a smidgen more research, and then maybe I’ll file a bug report. Another Mozilla oddity — the non-collapsed borders around the logo and in the calendar and membership box — seems to already have been reported.
  • I’m sorta going to miss the big background Q; I’m already wondering how to incorporate something resembling it into this layout.

Hang in there, Jan and Keith (and most importantly, Zeke!) — RSV is a nasty disease, but with good care, it’ll pass and Zeke will get right back to normal (which, of course, is eating, sleeping, and pooping — what else do one-month-olds do?!?). And rest assured that he’s not just getting good care; at Children’s, he’s getting great care. (Actually, one of my med school classmates may be his doctor in the ICU!)

Dahlia Lithwick has another great column covering the Supreme Court, this time recounting the oral arguments in HUD v. Rucker. It’s an interesting case about the fairness of federal housing rules that state that any drug use, by a tenant or a guest “under the tenant’s control,” will lead to eviction. At issue are four elderly tenants who were evicted, all due to use of drugs by others who were arguably under control of nobody; the kicker of the column is Dahlia’s list of “The 10 Best Ways To Lose the Most Sympathetic Case in History.”

colored chicks on display

OK, there are some things in this world that are just plain wrong, and I’d say that displays full of green, pink, red, blue, and purple chicks firmly fits into that category. Luckily (for the chicks), the dyed down is replaced by normal baby plumage in about two weeks, so they won’t grow up looking like complete freakshows.

Given that Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue cover is already up on the Yahoo most-emailed photo list despite a clear embargo until later this morning, methinks that Yahoo’s news department needs to work on abiding by the restrictions that are placed on stuff they get over from the news service wires. In all actuality, they are usually pretty good; I wonder how this one slipped through…

There’s little that makes me smile in the ongoing battle between AOL and Trillian, but I have to admit I giggled a little bit when I read this transcript of an AOL live tech support session. In response to AOL’s banning of Trillian, a bunch of people have made their websites inaccessible to anyone using AOL for service; one such person decided to contact AOL, pretending to be an unaware user and asking why he couldn’t get to those sites. Of course, the tech support person turned out to be clueless; it’s just funny seeing that cluelessness onscreen.

Interesting; there’s now an open-source project to develop a Terminal Services client for Linux. (For those who aren’t technically-inclined, it will let Linux users connect to a Windows server and see the desktop of the machine, with all their apps, just like they were sitting in front of it.) Of course, there’s already a good Java client out there that I recommend highly; this just adds to the options available on Linux.

Sorry about the “Unable to reach the server” messages you’ve been getting if you’ve tried to visit me the past three mornings; my Manila server has become a bit crashy this week. I hope to work it out soon.

UPDATE: in an effort to help things out, I’m doing a total reinstall of the server that hosts Manila. You may notice some minor blips here and there, but for the most part, I was able to move my Manila sites to another server for the mean time.

Hmmmmm…. I wonder if this decision’s gonna get appealed. It’s reading crap like this that makes me proud to be a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is now on-record as supporting same-sex parents. Despite the opinions of the justices (one of whom is well-known for other religious-right fanaticism), there’s now pretty good evidence that children reared by gay parents aren’t freaks, nor are they sociopaths; they’re normal kids, and likely to do just fine. Now, if we could say so much for judges and politicians…

Joel Spolsky has written another good column, this one about how to deal with the fact that, many times, people who get to make decisions about programming and projects don’t have any understanding of how such things actually work. I like his main recommendation — until you have them actually programmed, don’t let your users (or your non-technical bosses!) see the features that you intend to include in a project.

Yes, Shannon and I are total dorks, but dorks who are nonetheless meant for each other.

the tulips shannon sent ME!

I ran out on errands today, and about a half-hour later, as I was coming back, I noticed a whole lot of hubbub on the street in front of my building. It turns out that an SUV lost control and [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] , ending up [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] , pretty much right where I had walked to catch the bus not too long beforehand. Having a fire escape on the front of the building, [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] took a break from her “studying” and we [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] ; after it was pretty clear that nobody was hurt, we turned our attention to hoping that the [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] isn’t replaced, leaving us with one more parking place on the block.

Wow — I had no idea that USA Today “revised” both the online version of Christine Brennan’s column as well as the version that went into Wednesday’s print edition, deleting out the accusation of vote tampering on the part of the French judge. (Interestingly, USA Today itself covered the revision of the column.) Given how things have turned out, I’d bet (and hope) that they feel like idiots.

(I also feel a bit honored to have discovered all this by [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] in Jim Romenesko’s MediaNews; the flattery won’t stop me from urging Jim to get himself some permalinks, though!)

Foveon is an interesting company in Silicon Valley that’s developing a different kind of digital sensor array for digicams, one which could significantly change the resolution and quality of those images. Instead of having an array of sensors that each pick up a single color (red, blue, or green), it’s three layers of sensors which determine the proper color based on how deeply light passes through them. The New York Times has an article about the technology; I found that I didn’t really understand what they were talking about (and thus how you could get better resolution out of the same size array) without also checking out the multimedia illustration (linked right under the photo at the top) and Foveon’s own explanation.

I’ve been hanging onto this one in my pocket for a little while, wondering if it was too creepy to post. Today, I decided I’d rather just get the shortcut off my desktop, so here it is: a website that Russell Yates put up with pictures of his five children, the ones that were killed by his wife, their mother. It’s also a plea for money for her defense fund, and an attempt to indict his wife’s prosecutors.

Pure and simple, Sale and Pelletier were robbed.

(Later-in-the-day update: there may be more to the idea that Sale and Pellitier were robbed than just raw emotion. USA Today columnist Christine Brennan has what appears to be a scoop today — the French judge, Marie Reine Le Gougne, appears to have told the ISU that she was forced to vote for the Russians in a vote-swapping deal that would bring the ice dancing gold to the French next week. Brennan also mentions reports of the judge possibly being in a position of wanting to curry favor with the Russian delegation, who would make it possible for her to gain a seat on the ISU technical committee.)

It’ll be interesting to see what the findings of the ISU’s “internal assessment” turn out to be.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to think about combining all the Enron investigations into one, so that our Congress can turn at least some attention to other business.

I’m testing out a procedure that’ll pause the webserver here tonight at 11 PM, in order to do some routine maintenance on the files from which this (and a few other) websites are served. Hopefully, this will be the start of me not having to restart my Frontier/Manila server every few days in order to keep it stable.

Update: the procedure ran fine, but it remains to be seen if it helps deal prevent Frontier’s memory allocation from growing and growing; that’ll take a few days. And it appears that I may be able to take out the part of the procedure that contributes most to the time it takes to run, so tweaking will continue. In the meantime, it’ll run at 5:14 AM (Eastern), so expect about 20-30 seconds of downtime right around then.

A little reference for myself, for the various picture show macros that I’ve installed here:

  • webpages:
    • /picOrderEdit: the editor for the order of pictures in a picture show. Lets you define the previous and next image for each photo in the show, as well as a title for the show. Caveats:
      1. you need to manually put in the picture show title on each picture page (it doesn’t handle automatically doing this for you);
      2. you need to make sure that you submit the info for the last picture in the show, so that the info about the previous photo to that one, as well as the title of the show as displayed on that photo’s page, are saved.

    • /pictureShow: the page that actually displays the pictures themselves, as part of the picture show. Takes a single search argument, as such:


    • /popupPictureViewer: the page that displays popup images; you’ll never need to call this by yourself, as the {popupPicLink} macro should generate the link for you.

  • macros:

    • {popupPicLink}: generates the link for a pop-up picture window. Used as follows:

        {popupPicLink(“num”, “link text”)}

      where num is the message number of the picture, and link text is the text that you want to be the clickable link. Here’s an example:

        {popupPicLink(“1393”, “me and shannon at dana’s wedding”)}

      should generate: [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] .

Rawk on — Alex Feinman has written a free add-on to the Windows XP native CD writing stuff that will create and write ISO disk images. During the beta phase of XP, there was a MS-written PowerTool to do this, but they pulled it for some reason; finally, someone’s filled the void.

A certain white supremacist, Jew-hating website started popping up in my referrer logs a few weeks ago, and I made a conscious decision not to point to it and rant, because I didn’t even want them getting the hits. I didn’t even spend much time on the site, except to note that the front page was full of pretty disgusting epithets and raw ignorance. Well, I have to break my decision today, because Cory seems to have found the one page on the site worth reading, which he subtitled “White Supremacist Dating Tips.” Read the whole thing, but pay particular attention to the first rule for men — it’s a true winner, and hopefully, when guys actually start to implement it, it’ll help thin the herd of ignorant asses out there.

I’ve been reading a little bit about UPnP (Universal Plug and Play), after getting a few Linksys routers that support it, and I’ve gotta say that it sounds like a cool technology. Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be that many devices that use it yet, and more, there don’t seem to be many places on the web to read about it. The two best ones that I found are the resource page of the official UPnP standards body (which tends to the technical), and Microsoft’s overview of UPnP in Windows XP (which tends to the practical).

Update: Microsoft is already using UPnP in useful ways; for example, the Remote Assistance feature automatically senses if it’s behind a UPnP-compliant device, and translates the computer addresses accordingly.

I love the audacity of software companies. Does anyone run Norton AntiVirus? They’ve implemented another step in the LiveUpdate process within the past six months or so, where it verifies that you have a current subscription to virus signature updates. Lately, this step can take forever, and usually then times out (leaving you without many options). Searching their knowledge base for a way to fix this, I found a few enlightening articles, one suggesting that you just have to tolerate a process which “could take 15 minutes or more,”, and another that blames it on “temporarily busy” subscription confirmation servers and asks that you leave the error dialog box open for 30 minutes and then let it retry. Do they really think that people will tolerate their incompetence for very long?

Ohmygod, how have I missed BetterDog’s Blogs for Dogs? Sharp.

So, I’m on call here in the hospital, and I overheard the most amazing conversation this afternoon. One of the ward clerks — the people who answer the phones, pick up new orders in the charts, etc. — was complaining to one of the nurses that another ward clerk was (angry, shocked emotion inserted here) doing work that wasn’t specifically part of the ward clerk job. He occasionally helps find equipment that the nurses need, takes specimens to the pneumatic tube system, and even sat with a patient the other day while the mother ran a quick errand — and, in the eyes of the clerk today, this is all bad. She even threatened to report him to the union, lest his work ethic become a model for others.

A little while later, I asked the nurse to whom she was complaining about the conversation, and was pretty stunned to learn that it is, in fact, against the union rules to do work that isn’t part of your explicit job description. In fact, the employee’s union here encourages members to report instances when it occurs for disciplinary action.

It’s stunning to me how lazy people can be, and how much more work many of them will put into fighting off threats to their lazy lifestyle than they will into their jobs.

(It probably wouldn’t shock anyone to learn that the woman who was complaining hasn’t done any part of her job, much less something extra, in over a decade. When we come into work and she’s at the desk, we know that our jobs have just grown by 50% for that shift; she’s completely worthless.)

Critical IP sucks.

Tom Shales has a well-written column today on the NBC coverage of the Olympic opening ceremonies, agreeing that Bob-n-Katie’s coverage was painful, but also extending his criticism to the producers of the television event. I particularly like Shales’ notice of Costas’ failed attempt at making his script seem like impromptu eloquence (with his “the temperature here is in the twenties” quote); I also like his conclusion, which reads, in part: “More and more, NBC is becoming a living monument to execrably bad taste.”

Really, how much better would the Olympic opening ceremony be without the inane, unceasing blather of Bob Costas and Katie Couric?

It turns out there may be a little less principle than you think there is behind Dubya and Cheney’s stalwart stance on executive privilege in the energy task force/Enron investigation. It’s nice to see at least one media source pick up on the hypocrisy of it all.

Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor has a profile of David Walker, the head of the General Accounting Office and the man who is taking the White House to court over access to the documents. I like his take on things, and had no idea that he was a partner at Arthur Andersen before he took on his current job.

Some of the stupid-thing-I’ve-done stories that people contributed to Heather are good; others made me laugh hysterically. What I don’t get, though, is why the occasional asshole felt the need to contribute; I guess it’s easy to be a mouthbreathing cretin when you don’t have to attach your name.

From Piper, Kansas comes a sad tale of a teacher who caught 28 of her biology students plagiarizing their semester projects and failed them, and then after parents complained, was told by her school’s board to give them all partial credit and reduce the weight of the project grade. She resigned from her position, disgusted with the school’s tolerance of cheating; at least a dozen other teachers have threatened to follow suit. CNN has another take on it here, and the Kansas City Star has more on the Teacher’s Association reaction to the conflict, as well as an active online forum.

It was sheer coincidence (serendipity?) that, during a break from a big web design project this week, I meandered by Matt’s online home, and found both a damn fine study on user’s expectations of websites and the damn fine usability newsletter from which it came. I like the study a lot, mainly because it’s supported by actual user data rather than supposition; it shouldn’t shock anyone that, coming from the world of medicine, I demand that conclusions be backed up by real data.

For those of you who demand the same, I’d recommend heading over to Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines. Managed by the National Cancer Institute — another of those groups that is sorta stickly about having real data before doing something — it’s an awesome repository of information about implementing usability, and each recommendation is rated by the strength of the of evidence which supports it. It’s a don’t-miss in the world of website design.

I mean, really… is there anyone who doesn’t want one of these? (Seattlites would need this version, of course.) It seems that the company could use a good dose of help from Dean Kamen to help ‘em get over the final hurdles, though.

I find it interesting that I have yet to see anything on the ‘net that talks about the tastelessness of the U2 halftime show at the Super Bowl yesterday. Specifically, what I didn’t like what the way that the two huge curtains behind U2 — pretty clear artistic replicas of the Towers themselves — came crashing down while the names of the people who died in the buildings were scrolling by; to me, it was pointless and crass. Boooooo.

My current reading material: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman. I’m reading it for a community pediatrics rotation, wherein I’m supposed to be learning how to be more culturally sensitive of my community and patients. The book is irritating me, though — there’s a lot of blame laid at the doorstep of doctors for doing their job, a generous amount of idealistic attitude about what doctors should be doing for their patients, and a conspicuous lack of stressing the responsibilities that go along with being a parent.

Strangely, after all the activities that this rotation has thrown at me over the past three and a half weeks, I have the same feelings about a lot of what goes on in my hospital’s community. There’s a ton of emphasis placed on how doctors don’t do enough to understand the community; there’s no emphasis placed on how the community doesn’t do much to understand the hospital.

It’s frustrating always being the bad guy.

This past weekend, I decided to start reading more about the entire Enron scandal, and am simply aghast at what I’m learning. The deception and fraud are, by all accounts, enormous; Ken Lay may be the devil himself, and I hope that someone is able to get into the public eye exactly how much money this man has lying around, so we can be spared the sob stories by his wife about how broke they are. I also hope that Congress subpoenas his ass into the hotseat, rips him to pieces, and then does the same with our friends at Arthur Andersen.

I freakin’ hate AOL Instant Messenger right now. All day, it’s randomly denied my attempts to log in, saying “You are attempting to sign on again too soon. Please try again later.” It’s related to using Trillian, I’m reasonably sure; that being said, I’m using the same version of Trillian that others are using without problems. About an hour after the error starts, I can log in again — but then, within 30 minutes or so, I get booted.

If the fuckers at AOL are really going to start playing the only-our-client game, methinks it’ll be time to stop using the damn thing entirely. God knows, there are other good services out there…

Finally! Maybe now I’ll !@%#*$ remember when it’s the first of the month. [Praise be to Heather for the niftiness.]

How did I miss this? The Wall Street Journal had a recent article about the problems that Sports Illustrated faces — competition from ESPN Magazine (and television in general), the budget cuts that came hand-in-hand with the AOL-Time Warner merger, and the loss of the magazine’s managing editor. There’s a lot of meat in this article; it’s interesting to see this kind of perspective on the magazine.

There’s a good thread brewing over at MetaTalk about the life/death/rebirth of MetaFilter. It all got started by a formerly-prominent member’s proclamations of impending MetaFilterian doom, but it’s developed into quite a discussion about what sites like MF should be (and why people even try to figure things like that out). It’s also got a lot of misplaced melodrama, which is far and away the most entertaining part.