I can’t believe I’ve neglected to mention up until now that I had my very last ER shift as a pediatrics resident ever this past Saturday. You cannot imagine how exciting this is for me; as much as I love the critical care stuff in the ER, the primary care stuff (and the overt abuse of the system) drives me up a wall. I had grown to dread going to work in the ER, and now, I can officially say that it’s all behind me.
Wouldn’t it figure, just as I’m fixing to leave New York City, plans are firming up for a loop around the island of Manhattan for bikers (and, of course, rollerbladers). The grand scheme is called the New York Greenway, and aims to link up the disparate pathways that are currently chock full of people trying to get exercise. Parts of the loop are already open; Friday, I discovered this when I got to the south end of Riverside Park and was able to continue on a connection to Hudson River Park. Happily, Alaina and I were able to go all the way to Battery Park, and ended up with 15 miles on our blades. The route took us past the 79th Street Boat Basin, the U.S.S. Intrepid, Chelsea Piers, the New York Trapeze School, the World Financial Center, and the former site of the World Trade Center towers before turning around to come back to the Upper West Side. Had we continued northward, we’d have been able to get (with one major diversion onto city streets) to the George Washington Bridge. What a great way to get some exercise!
Finally, New York City’s new 311 call center is getting a little bit of press. I had the chance to talk with one of the developers of the service at a party a month ago, and learned that it came about as a result of our current mayor walking down a street during his campaign and noticing a fire hydrant leaking into a basement. He asked his aides who the owner would call to get the problem fixed, and was given a variety of possibilities — the fire department, the buildings department, the landlord of the building — and then when he learned that the real answer was the Department of Environmental Protection, he decided that there needed to be a centralized way for a NYC resident to get answers like this, not to mention to take care of the problems themselves. The city brought 311 online on March 9th, but didn’t advertise it at all, instead allowing agencies to start directing calls its way as their functions were centralized. And most interesting to me, any issue that isn’t completed by the end of the phone call is issued a tracking number, allowing callers to get status updates on the solutions to their problems. Bloomberg’s invested a lot of time and money in creating the 311 service, and it looks like it could revolutionize the relationship between NYC government agencies and their constituents.
(One interesting factoid: 212-NEW-YORK is the phone number people would use to access 311 outside of New York City. Cool!)
In what can be seen as an indication of just how big the problem has become, the war against unsolicited email hit the front page of the New York Times today. While not a terribly detailed article, it goes a little bit into the cat and mouse game that spammers and Internet service providers play on a daily basis, and talks about a few of the options that both ISPs and end users have employed trying to stem the tide. It also provides a few overwhelming statistics, such as the fact that 45% of email headed into Earthlink’s mail servers is now junk, and over 70% of that inbound to AOL is unsolicited. (We’ve all had a hint of this huge surge, both from the increasing numbers in our own inboxes and from those who keep us informed about how much crap ends up in their inbox.) The most frequent defense proffered by spammers is that the absolute most they’re forcing users to do is hit the delete button, but these numbers are this argument’s best refutation; there is a hell of a lot of network and hardware capacity that currently has to deal with email that nobody requested and nobody wants, and it’s all paid for by the unwilling recipients in the form of higher access and hardware costs. Luckily, as the numbers continue to rise, and corporate America continues to find itself buried under masses of unwanted email, lobbying for legislative solutions can only become more effective. Until then, though, I recommend continuing to make the spammers’ lives hard on both a business and personal level, by using collaborative mail filtering services, participating in projects that are able to continually adapt to the tactics of the spammers, and engaging in one’s own alternative solutions.
(Incidentally, I’m proud of the Times author for using the domain name example.com in his explanations, since it’s reserved for just this purpose. Too many other people choose random domains for their examples, leading to a lot of spam in the inboxes of the legitimate owners of those domains.)
There’s a big reason that I’ve lived in the same apartment in New York City for eight years — I cannot stand real estate hunting. Between the run-down cells that are passed off as livable and the creepy people involved in the entire process, I cringe when I think about having to pound the pavement looking for an apartment. Thus, my upcoming move to Boston has had quite an effect on my blood pressure as of late; Shannon can attest to the fact that all it’s taken over the past few weeks to get me riled up was an innocuous question from a friend about whether or not I’d yet found a place to live. All that being said, though, I have to start my fellowship on July 1st, so after putting the process off as long as possible, I came up to Boston late last night (straight out of an ER shift) so that I could get started. Thus, I couldn’t be happier that by 10 AM this morning, I was done — I now have a Boston apartment.
The way that it all worked out so nicely is a good story. One of my old friends — someone who I met in the fourth grade, who was on the debate team with me in high school, and who may get credit for being the first to sit me down in front of a computer — is now a lawyer in Boston. He’s lived in the same apartment for the past eight years, and nearly every time I’ve come up here, I’ve stayed in his place. It’s a nice apartment, with three bedrooms, big living and dining rooms, a gargantuan kitchen, a study, and an outdoor patio off the front of the house. The last time I came up, he mentioned that he and his girlfriend were closing on a house, and it turns out that not only did they do so, but he’ll be moving out of his apartment just as I’m going to be moving to Boston. His apartment is perfect for so many reasons — it’s close to the hospital (about 5 minutes from the hospital by car, two T stops away by train, and within walking/rollerblading distance if I’m feeling ambitious), it’s big, it’s on a private street, and most importantly, it’s owned by a great guy who is willing to do the precious few things that I’d want done before I were to move in. This morning, he and I walked through the apartment verifying everything that he’d do to get the place ready, and ten minutes later, the deal was sealed with a handshake (and later, with a lease that was waiting for me when I got back from the movies tonight).
I feel like a huge load has been lifted off of my shoulders; it wasn’t until tonight that I felt completely ready to move to Boston, and start this next chapter of my life. Now, to get through the packing and unpacking process…
I’ve spent the last few weeks looking for a good, inexpensive content management system, one which could serve as a replacement for the inadequate, buggy platform on which a project I’m involved in runs. I’ve installed about two dozen of the options out there, and evaluated twice as many more , and I have to say that there’s truly nothing inspiring to speak of. Nearly every CMS is built on its own confusing, overengineered foundation, and as a result, they all build equally confusing and overengineered websites. In addition, most of the CMSes focus too much on specialized features rather than generalized content management, incorporating modules that add weblogs, shops, bookmarks, Google searches, P2P messaging, photo galleries, polls, and advertising banners, among many other things. And then, to top it all off, pretty much none of the CMS options have documentation that’s worth a damn, making it that much harder to figure out the workflow and structure of the data representing the all-important content.
After seeing so many recurrent issues, I’m starting to believe that they’re not problems with the products, but rather, problems with the entire idea of content management systems that are applicable across projects and industries. Vignette may be great for news sites, but it doesn’t hold up as a medical database; Slash works out well as an online forum, but it’s a poor fit for a photo gallery site. The site I want to move is specialized in its own way, as well, and finding a CMS that works for its purposes without forcing users to jump through unnecessary hoops is proving to be immmensely difficult. Thus, I’m now at a crossroads: keep looking and thinking about how to work around the structure of a CMS, or decide to build my own. Maybe the latter option is the best, acknowledging as it does that there’s no such thing as a content management system that can manage every single website.
What an awesome picture! It always makes me happy to see the photo wires move images that give a story a little bit of color.
Wow, do I want me a Leica D-Lux. Over three million pixels on the CCD, a Leica-fabricated lens with 3X optical zoom, an aluminum body, unlimited video time, USB 2.0, and two lithium ion batteries — it’s an amazing package, and it very well may replace the Leica Digilux 1 as the digicam I would least mind seeing show up on my doorstep. (And if my impending graduation from my pediatrics residency isn’t reason enough for someone to send it to me, then I don’t know what is!)
If I’ve learned anything over the past ten years about rollerblading in Central Park, it’s that your level of enjoyment is directly proportional to your powers of anticipation and forecasting. Stated more succinctly: while whizzing around the loop, it’s important to keep your eyes open and be aware of everything that’s going on around you. Is that couple walking to the Boathouse going to get all the way across the loop before you reach them, or should you start figuring out a path around them that minimizes your loss of momentum? When you reach that clot of people extending all the way across the exercise lane, will their relative speed differences have created a manageable path through the blockade, or should you be looking for a spot to hop onto the sidewalk and zip right by them? Is that woman walking with the stroller going to continue to weave around on the roadway, and if so, are you both destined for the same patch of asphalt at the same time? (Alternately, is that woman with the stroller going to suddenly realize that the big, paved sidewalk immediately inside the loop was built so that people wouldn’t stroll in the exercise lanes of the roadway?)
And if that’s all not hard enough, there are certain times during the day that Central Park is open to cars, meaning that venturing out of the third of the road limited to bikers, bladers, and runners is an invitation to become either a hood ornament or road kill. If you’ve ever crossed an intersection on foot in NYC, you know that the likelihood of anticipating the future path of a cab is similar to that of hitting the Powerball; when you’re traveling 15 miles an hour on an unstable base of inline wheels, and the line separating you from the cab is only four inches thick, doing so takes on a whole new level of importance. Is that cab going to use the exercise lane to pass that Parks Department truck he’s been riding tight for a quarter-mile? Do you need to speed up a bit to get across the 72nd Street transverse, or will you reach it at the same time as that stream of cars, forcing you to stop and wait?
All in all, rollerblading in Central Park is a great way to exercise, complete with beautiful views, great places to rest, and the everpresent chance to spot celebrities. But if you’re the kind of person who likes to tune out while you sweat, then it may not be for you; self-preservation requires you to stay on your toes.
There are a lot of good things about latest issue of Wired, but one of the things I appreciate most is the blogger lovefest contained within. Starting with page 30, there’s a picture of Nick Denton staring out at readers, giving him props for Gizmodo, Gawker, and whatever else he has up his sleeves; then, on page 126, a table lists Cameron Marlowe’s Blogdex as the seventh wonder of the MIT Media Lab world (alas, the table isn’t available online). And last but not least, page 38 of the Unwired supplement gives us a half-page shot of Rael Dornfest, iBook in hand, alongside a short piece about wireless use at conferences.
I’ve had a few conversations recently about how the press remains evenly divided about the phenomenon of personal websites, either lauding them or hating them consistently across all of each publishing company’s various magazines and websites. I’m glad to see that Wired seems to have taken up position firmly in the pro camp, recognizing the diamonds that have sprouted out of the medium.
This weekend was the first one that has even approximated spring in New York City, and walking around on the streets, it’s clear how ready we’ve all been for this. People came out in droves yesterday and today, with their kids on the street, their beach towels in the parks, and their drinks at the outdoor cafes that have been packed away in restaurant basements for far too long. There’s even a lot of clothing confusion evident, with polar fleeces tied around the waists of those who didn’t trust that it could finally be warm outside, and at the other extreme, people with bare arms and legs scurrying out of the still-cool shadows for warmer, sunnier sidewalks. Signs are starting to appear on lampposts advertising street fairs, store owners are leaving their doors propped open and seeding the breeze with the smells of freshly-prepared foods, and everyone’s mood is a thousand percent improved from two weeks ago. This is the New York City that I love with all my heart, and I couldn’t be happier that it decided to grace us with its presence.
(Incidentally, the coming of spring in NYC brought along with it a new sidebar panel over there on the right, keeping track of my rollerblade distance for the year. Last weekend was my inaugural blade, winding around the Central Park loop nearly twice while chatting with my brother, and today brought another, quicker foray into the Park. I’m hoping that displaying my total mileage will shame me into exercising more; we’ll see how that works out.)
I’m so damn annoyed with myself — I forgot to buy myself one last NYC subway token yesterday before they went off sale forever. I have one of the old bullseye-type tokens stashed away somewhere from when I came to New York, and I would have loved to have one of the newer ones stashed along with it. That being said, it’s amazing how quickly New Yorkers have accepted the MetroCard; the reason I had to try to remember to buy that last token is because I haven’t used one in years.
Listen, all you downtown snobs, you can say what you want about my Upper West Side, but I’ll just stay quiet up here, content in the knowledge that you’re all fatter than us.
No matter where you weigh in on the current conflict in Iraq, I recommend reading Eason Jordan’s op-ed piece in today’s New York Times. It’s a powerful demonstration that the presence of free world media over the past decade in nations like Iraq hasn’t necessarily meant the exposition of the atrocities that take place in those nations; basic human empathy, at the level of those in charge of the news bureaus, has intervened to protect those most vulnerable to retribution. (Of course, that fact also leads me to wonder what we don’t know about in other similar nations, like China.)
So, I was in the back of a taxi this evening coming up Amsterdam Avenue, and at 72nd Street, I decided to open up my laptop and see how many wireless access points were visible along my trip. Between there and 120th Street, I picked up 180 WiFi nodes; only 48 of them (27%) were WEP-protected. Of course, there’s no telling how many of them were willing to dole out an address to me, nor how many of them had filters preventing random computers from connecting, but that’s still damn impressive, and way more access points than I would have thought I’d see. There were plenty of interesting nodes, too: a bunch for Columbia University, one at St. John the Divine, one in a New York City Housing Authority building, two NYCwireless nodes, and one beaming out the bedroom window of a certain Filipino broad. There were also a dozen or more powerful nodes named TBA; I wonder if there’s a wireless project in the planning.
Nonetheless, if you’re looking to cop some free wireless access in New York City, I’m pretty sure that you can just set up shop at any of the sidewalk cafes along Amsterdam Avenue and surf away!
Whether or not you believe that elephants can actually run, one fact that’s now beyond debate is that, while moving quickly, pachyderms never have all four feet off the ground at the same time. While conducting a modern-day variant of Eadweard Muybridge’s famous 1878 horse experiments, John Hutchinson also clocked the huge animals at nearly 16 miles an hour (five miles an hour faster than his previous estimates). His findings were accepted for a brief communication in the journal Nature; there’s more information over at Hutchinson’s website, including the article itself (in PDF format).
There’s an interesting article in the New York Times about the closure of a few movie theaters on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, going into a lot of detail about the history of all the movie houses along Broadway, and the tough roads ahead of smaller theater owners as they, like all New Yorkers, face gentrification and the higher real estate prices that go along with it. I imagine that Manhattan has always been like this, with the push and pull of society and the economy doing a lot to determine the content of this itty bitty island; it’s amazing to me that any small businesses still find themselves able to afford setting up shop in the city. I just hope that Manhattan isn’t becoming one huge strip mall…
In the intensive care unit last night, I did something I’ve never done before: replaced a patients entire blood volume with fresh, new blood. It’s called an exchange transfusion — literally, your goal is to exchange as much of a patient’s blood volume as you can with new blood. And when I say that I did it, I mean that on every day of the week but Saturday, my hospital has machines to do this procedure, but on Saturdays, it’s the resident who has the privilege of moving all that blood into and out of the patient. For four and a half hours, it was my job to draw off 165 milliliters of blood from my patient’s arterial line every 10 minutes, as bag after bag of fresh blood dripped into a intravenous line in his other arm.
By the end of the first hour, I had it down to an exact science; I could get the 165 ml off in four minutes, leaving me with a luxurious six more minutes to rush around the ICU taking care of my other patients before I had to be back at his bedside to repeat the cycle. By the end of the second hour, the novelty had long worn off, and I was cursing my hospital for not having the mechanized exchange machine available. (I was also growing curious about the three or four plastic urinals full of discarded blood that had already accumulated at the foot of the bed.) By the end of the full four and a half hours, I was just amazed at what we had done — taken over four liters of blood out of a fifteen year-old boy, and replaced it with blood that had been donated by over a dozen people, none of whom could know that they were helping this young man avoid going onto a ventilator. This morning, the patient was saying that he felt a lot better; given how much manual labor went into the procedure, that made me feel a lot better, too.
Once again, I missed one of Dahlia Lithwick’s dispatches from the Supreme Court, this one about the arguments in Lawrence v. Texas challenging the state’s law banning same-gender sex. It’s possibly her best column ever; it’s damn funny, and perfectly frames much of the idiocy of anti-homosexual statutes. And, as always, it brings to the forefront the interplay of the Justices themselves during the oral arguments, highlighting their attempts to steer the arguments towards their personal points of view, and to save the lawyers from the traps set by the other Justices.