There’s an interesting report of neurologic damage in two children of women who adhered to vegan or vegetarian diets in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The link between the cases was a deficiency in vitamin B12 (cobalamin) in the womens’ diets; whereas there is much known about adult B12 deficiency, its rarity in infants means that it takes random case reports like these to see the sheer extent of damage that can be caused. And while it’d be easy to pass judgment on people who eat vegan diets, there’s an even easier lesson here — if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, take your vitamin B12.
It appears that even here in 2003, the Y2K problem hasn’t totally been tackled. I love the woman’s response — that last time she went to school, she had to walk an hour each way, so the free bus ride would be a welcome change. Still plucky at 106 years old…
Right to free speech? The Direct Marketing Association feels that making phone calls to offer people products and pressure them into donations despite their explicitly-stated preference against such calls is within their right to free speech?!? That’s just unbelievable. I also love that part of the DMA’s argument is that the already-existent state do-not-call registries “provide enough protection” to consumers, an argument which naturally begs the question: how does a national do-not-call registry violate a telemarketer’s right to free speech, yet a state one doesn’t? (Are states actually allowed to abridge the most basic of American rights?)
It really shouldn’t come as so much of a surprise that the DMA is attempting to ground its annoying-as-all-hell business practice in the Bill of Rights; after all, his is an industry that already has managed to receive exemptions from caller ID requirements, has started to use prerecorded sales pitches despite Federal laws prohibiting this, and which actually charges consumers for the privilege of using the web to request inclusion on its own do-not-call and do-not-mail lists. I’d love to see a day when unsolicited calls are banned outright.
A big bang-up accident just happened outside my window. Living seven floors above Broadway, all I heard was the screech of a set of brakes and then a rapid-fire series of huge crunches. A BMW 5 series is impaled into a Lincoln Towncar at a right angle; the Towncar is askew in a parallel parking place, and the BMW is awkwardly sticking out across two northbound lanes of Broadway, xenon headlights reflecting weakly around the edges of the hole it has made in the door of its target. A BMW 3 series is sitting in the middle of the intersection at 100th Street, its entire front end sagging and demolished into little, shiny, metallic bits that are now spread across the road. People are wandering around all three cars, seemingly content that nobody is injured and moving the larger projectiles out of oncoming traffic. And, as always, the cars that are backed up are honking and honking and honking, oblivious to the cause of their delay, anxious to get on with their commute home.
As anyone with an .org domain probably knows, the master registry for all such domains changed hands over the course of yesterday and today, from the devil incarnate to the Public Interest Registry. Some of the web-based domain lookups are confused by the transition, so I hunted around the web for the name of the actual WHOIS server for the new registry, but came up blank. A quick call to the PIR came up with the info, which I present here now (both as a reminder for myself, and so that nobody else comes up blank): whois.publicinterestregistry.net. Use it in health, all the while knowing that it’s one less piece of the Internet in the hands of evil.
Perhaps the best description (and dissection) of the worm that caused havoc here on Saturday, and continues to cause general slowness across the Internet, is over at Matthew Murphy’s site. I’ve got to say, as much annoyance as the virus has caused, it’s beautifully elegant; its simplicity, though, is what has led to the ease with which the damage has been controlled.
If anyone’s wondering what happened around here this morning — why QDN, as well as my gal’s site, MetaFilter, BlogRoots, Megnut, and a few other sites were down — you might want to read this, and this, and most particularly, this and this. One thing I’ll say about this worm is that on a two-processor machine, it’s impact is enough to saturate a T1; another thing to say is that, after working overnight in the ER, and having a flood in the hospital that was bad enough to cause us to emergently evacuate and set up shop for the rest of the night in the adult ER, I did not want to have to deal with it.
Since Monday, I’ve been on the overnight shift in the emergency room, taking care of the kids who make it in despite weather so cold I haven’t felt my earlobes in days. As you’d expect, the freezing temperatures keeps a lot of the less acutely-ill children at home, so while we’re still busy, it’s with patients who need relatively urgent intervention — tight asthmatics, kids with acute abdominal pain, teenagers with serious injuries — rather than those who are probably best served by a visit to their local pediatrician.
Last night, I took care of a 16 year-old girl who was horsing around outside and tripped on a curb, whacking her head against a stone pole. Her left eye was a mess, with a huge bruise around it and the lid so swollen that she had to make a serious effort in order to open it. I felt a depression in the bone above her eye and told her that she probably had a skull fracture, and she began to cry; it was clear that she was pretty much at her limit with the bruising and swelling, and the idea of a broken bone shattered through her resolve. Luckily, we were able to help her even with that — one of the attendings showed her the scar above his right eye and recollected the time he was hit in the head with a golf driver, causing not only a fracture of the bone but a laceration deep enough to make his doctors worried about an open communication to his brain. Once she was done laughing, she seemed better, got a dose of IV antibiotics, and went for her CT scan.
Two days ago, I had my dream: two sets of twins, in adjacent beds, who arrived within ten minutes of each other. Both sets were premature, and both sets were within the first three weeks of life; with all of the playing and oohing and aahing, it was hard to tear myself away from their beds in order to care for my other patients. I ended up sending one set home (they were in for jaundice, but their bloodwork made me feel that they were doing well), and admitting one of the other set of twins (she had an apneic spell serious enough to make me worry about a repeat episode happening at home, unobserved).
The hardest patient this week, though, was the one that we did the absolute least for. We got a call on our notification phone telling us that EMS was inbound with a 17 year-old boy who was discovered not breathing by his family. About 2 minutes later, paramedics rolled in with the boy, one bagging him, another doing chest compressions, and a third guiding the entire group into our crash room. They said that he was completely unresponsive when they got to his home, and that they only got the most minimal of cardiac rhythms; they had already shocked him twice and given him epinephrine four times. By the time he got to us, his pupils were fixed and wide open, and he had a good deal of morbid lividity, and about a minute later, we called the arrest. As a death within 24 hours of admission to the hospital, the medical examiner will perform an autopsy to try to determine what happened, but realistically, we may never know what happened.
Nights in the ER are long and tiring; I can’t wait to go back to my day schedule.
Finally, the issue of unsolicited email and website customer information privacy (or lack thereof) makes it into the New York Times, but only because the incident in question intersects with a more sensational issue, Holocaust revisionism. Writer and photoblogger David Gallagher wrote the article after he received an unsolicited, revisionist email to an address he had used once and only once while hunting for a roommate; he provides a little more information on his own website about what his research uncovered, as well as the actions taken against him by the author of the mail once the article was made public.
Of all people, Scott Turow (a lawyer before he was an author) wrote an op-ed piece that provides the best explanation of the political and legal realities which led to George Ryan’s commutation of the death sentences of all 167 Illinois prisoners scheduled to die. Turow served on Ryan’s commission looking to reform the capital punishment laws of Illinois; as such, I suspect that he’s in a position to comment on the specifics of the state’s death penalty and how it’s applied.
It’s nice to see that Glenn Fleishman chose Movable Type for his newest wireless technology weblog; his first site, WiFi Networking News (which recently changed names from 802.11b Networking News), still merits a daily visit from me, and I’d hope it’s just a matter of time before it makes the switch to MT. (If you’re reading, Glenn, I’d be happy to convert your Manila database for you; it’s a painless process!)
Some may remember Zac Unger’s weeklong diary about his 27-week preemie, Percy, and all the difficulties the baby was facing in her first week of life; I was sad that the diary only lasted a week, after which we all lost touch with how the little one was doing. Well, Percy is now 92 days old and still in the neonatal intensive care unit; Zac provided an update on Slate yesterday. I wish them the best — they’re right, the NICU will be a memory soon enough.
CERT has become a de facto authority for reporting computer application- or operating system-related security issues, and has a special category of reports (CERT Advisories) that reports only those issues that are deemed severe enough to lead to system compromise. In looking up information on an old bug today, I came across CERT’s page of 2002 advisories, and was surprised to see that out of the 37 reported, only 10 of them were related to Microsoft Windows; out of those 10, three were for third-party applications that run on Windows, and one was for a vulnerability shared by pretty much every major operating system out there. In contrast, 24 of the advisories were related to Unix or Linux systems (and two others were PHP-related, which I’m probably not out of line saying is run far more often on non-Windows machines than on Windows ones). To me, this is just another data point for the argument that a lot more is made of Microsoft’s security deficiencies than is actually there, at least when CERT’s perspective is taken into account.
Do yourself a favor, and read William Saletan’s article about the ease with which the press has been manipulated into reporting a story that has yet to have a shred of evidence. And when you get through the first paragraph and decide not to continue reading because you’re sick to death of the entire Raelian clone story, keep reading, because there’s a twist, and it’ll probably make you think a little bit.
For everyone who’s as addicted to the show as I am: The Truth About Trading Spaces. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises here, but rather, verification that there are a few other people helping out with the work (both the in-room work and the carpentry), and the budget isn’t as tight as we’re led to believe (since “general supplies” come out of a $30K-per-episode production fund).
It looks like the first salvos are being fired by mainstream television against digital video recorders (e.g., TiVo, ReplayTV) and their ability to allow people to skip commercials. Ad revenue is what keeps the networks on the air, but as PVRs become more popular, the argument is that commercials get seen by less eyeballs. Despite the television networks calling this outright theft, Dave Farber astutely noted earlier this year that the solution wouldn’t come from a courtroom, but rather, from television discovering other ways to integrate advertising into broadcasts. It looks like the WB is the first to the new feed trough, and it will be interesting to see how the public reacts to it.
There’s potential bad news in the war against unsolicited email: Deersoft has been acquired by Network Associates. What’s so bad about this? Well, Deersoft is the company set up by the makers of SpamAssassin to market the awesome spamfighting application to corporations, and with its acquisition, the two leading developers on the project are now lost to the world of proprietary software. (In addition, the third major developer, and the sole developer of version 3.0 of SpamAssassin, left the project this morning, since he’s employed by a competitor of Network Associates’.) The FAQ acknowledges NAI’s dedication to making any new development proprietary, which makes me fear that there won’t be much more magic coming from SpamAssassin without opening up your wallet.
Although I now look like a Paul Boutin groupie, he’s got another good article on Slate, this time describing the new 17” Apple G4 laptop as, variously, a Cadillac Escalade, a tricked-out hoopty, a mall crusier, and most aptly, a lust object. Seriously, though — 10.2 by 15.4 inches in size? That’s huge! I wonder how much of a real market there is for this machine, no matter how much lust it generates.
Paul Boutin addressed the shortcomings of the newest audio formats (DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD) over at Slate yesterday; depressingly, the biggest problems he noted are the compromises that were made by companies who will produce readers for the music discs. No hardware that can be installed in computers? No digital outputs on any hardware? What good is all that improved digital clarity and detail when it’s trapped behind analog converters? It’s such an amazing crock, and at a certain point, it gets hard to take any of this seriously.
So, the proof wasn’t proof at all, but rather, evidence that Microsoft either is using HTTP 1.1’s persistent connections, or that the company actually reads old proposals for making Internet communications faster, and then implements them to make its products better than the competition. I haven’t done a packet capture on the conversations between IE and various webservers yet, so I’m not sure which it is; I’m just embarrassed that I bought into the “evil empire” argument, if only for a few days.
Oh my god, just kill me now, because if you don’t, then the FPS Personal Backpack Audio System assuredly will. I can only imagine how annoying it’ll be to have every damn schoolkid in New York City walking around the streets, buses, and subways blaring their music. (Thanks to our friends at Gizmodo for the heads-up.)
Compare and constrast this airport security experience with this one. It’s a little sad that bureaucratic favoritism is alive and well at airport checkpoints, the very place where personal freedom faces one of its biggest tests in this country’s recent history. I’m pleased, though, that instead of happily accepting the favoritism, Penn Gillette is publicizing his treatment and the response that he got from the Las Vegas airport’s public relations, and likewise, that he seems committed to using his disposable income to help secure equally rigorous protection of the rights of us non-famous people.
Over the past few years, I’ve heard rumors that the reason Internet Explorer loads web pages so much faster than its competitors was that it takes liberties with the way that it requests the pages. Finally, someone put the effort into analyzing the conversation that the web browser has with servers, proving that the rumors are true, and that as a result, there’s a built-in advantage to using Internet Explorer with Microsoft’s own web server. And as much as I love IE (and generally defend the actions of Microsoft in the software market), I don’t like that the company is playing loose with the fundamental specs that govern how machines talk to each other on the Internet.
It should surprise nobody that the Raelians have backed out of the promised DNA tests on Eve, the ostensibly cloned baby. (And on the subject, Jim Lewis has a thought-stimulating article over at Slate about how cloning introduces much confusion into the whole issue of how Eve is related to the woman who bore her.)
Apropos of nothing, it turns out that the information we all learned in high school about eye color inheritance — brown dominant over blue, work it all out with a one-gene Punnett Square — turns out to be not all that accurate. To date, three genes have been discovered which involve determination of eye color, EYCL1 (also known as gey), EYCL2 (bey1), and EYCL3 (bey2). The ways that these genes interact can’t explain all of the known inheritance patterns of eye color (like blue-eyed parents with brown-eyed children), though, so there are at least a few other undiscovered genes out there.
I’m not sure how I missed Jennifer Balderama’s article in the Washington Post about the friction between free speech and weblogging, but it’s something that anyone who keeps a personal site should read. I’ll always remember my own experience with the issue, a little over a year ago, when my hospital’s associate chairman paged me to let me know that he had become a reader of QDN. At the time, the hospital in which I train was identified in a few different places on the site, and in light of that, he asked me to either remove the identification or avoid discussing my experiences in the hospital. As engrained as I am in my work, it wasn’t a hard choice; whenever I read about people who get sued or lose their jobs over things that they post, I’m thankful that that was the choice I was given.