December 27, 2004
Seagate 5GB Pocket Hard Drive
Flash memory is superb - compact, stable, not power-dependent - but still very expensive compared to hard disks.
For now, the best combination of size and capacity may be this new pocket hard drive from Seagate.
The device comes with a retractable U.S.B. 2.0 cable that stores within the housing.
Backward-compatible with U.S.B. 1.0 and 1.1 interfaces.
Works with PC or Mac.
Allows you to partition the memory so users can cordon off and password protect one or more sections of the drive to store sensitive information.
The housing, vaguely U.F.O.-like, measures 2.5" across and houses a 1.0" hard disk drive.
Weighs 2.3 ounces.
Powered by your computer, so you never have to worry about losing data because of battery failure.
There's also a 2.5 GB model, identical in appearance: about $125.
For comparison, consider that the largest capacity commercially available flash memory card has a 3 GB capacity and costs $306.
But the price differential is narrowing, and eventually everything will be flash.
No moving parts is very compelling technology.
[via Adam Baer and the New York Times]
BehindTheMedspeak: 'Medical care is one of those very strange parts of the economy where you get paid no matter what the quality of the service you provide'
So said Dr. Steven M. Asch, a health care researcher at the V.A. Greater Los Angeles Health Care System and the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica.
He was quoted in Gina Kolata's Saturday New York Times front-page story about how highly-regarded hospitals and physicians surprisingly often fail to follow well-accepted practice guidelines.
I've always been puzzled as to how medicine became structured such that a terrible doctor makes as much as - and in some cases much more than - an excellent one.
How is this possible?
It's because there's really no way of assessing who's good and who's not.
Most things in medicine are routine, and so it doesn't matter who does them.
For the hard parts, well, any one patient generally only has one experience to report.
But to whom?
Family and friends?
And even then, what good is a series of one?
It's like the doctor who says, "In my experience..." when he's only done something once or twice.
Doesn't give you a whole lot of confidence in predicting future outcomes, does it?
The difference between a good or a bad doctor is so subtle to a civilian/patient, you'll never be able to know for sure.
But for the most part, they won't trash a fellow physician.
And even bad doctors get away with their mistakes most of the time with no harm done: the human body is surprisingly forgiving, and gets over most things with or without medical intervention.
Now Medicare's starting to rate hospitals based on how often they use proven remedies for common ailments.
Within a few years, individual doctors are going to be rated as well.
That's the thrust of Kolata's article.
But I have a secret to let you in on: those ratings will not tell you whether the doctor who's treating you is any good or not.
I say this because for many years, I was in charge of Quality Assurance for the anesthesiology department at the University of Virginia.
I spent countless hundreds of hours gathering data and preparing statistics for our department and for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).
All useless, all busy work in terms of making anesthesia better and safer at our hospital.
It's a paper-and-statistic-generating machine to create work and an illusion of measurement and progress.
As will be the hospital and doctor ratings put out by Medicare.
Because good hospitals and good doctors deal with sicker patients, and have higher rates of complications and deaths.
And no matter how much of a "fudge factor" you insert to allow for the increased "degree of difficulty," if you will, it simply won't let you compare doctors accurately in terms of whom you should choose to take care of you when you're well and in the event you get sick.
So what should you do?
I'll tell you exactly what I tell people who ask me: don't get sick.
That's really the long and the short of it.
Sure, if you were in Charlottesville I'd know who to send you to, but outside my town I don't have a whole lot to offer you.
You can get a recommendation from your local medical society, find out where your doctor went to school and did his residency, see if he's board-certified, but I'm sorry to tell you that all your efforts are not gonna get you what you want, which is the name of the doctor who's best for you.
Like I said - don't get sick.
Recycled Record Bowl
Not, not another in the endless litany of holiday season football games.
Brooklyn designer Jeff Davis takes old 12" records and makes them into functional bowls.
The original label's intact and protected with a clear Mylar seal.
You get to choose your record genre from one of five:
• Rock Essentials (Kiss, Rolling Stones, The Who, Springsteen, etc.)
• 70's/80's Pop (Wham, The Go-Go's, Duran Duran, etc.)
• Country (Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, etc.)
• Crooners (Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, etc.)
• Diva (Bette Midler, Cher, Barbara Streisand, etc.)
Kind of cool, especially if you're getting one for someone who's mad about a particular performer or group.
'40 Years of the Amazing Spider-Man' - 501 comic books, spanning 40 years - for $49.95
The wonders of digital technology.
Marvel's put every single issue of "Amazing Spider-Man," from No. 1 (March 1963) to No. 500 (December 2003) on disc.
Bonus: "Amazing Fantasy" No. 15, from 1962, the first appearance ever of the superhero.
But wait, there's more.
Included on the 11 CDs are all four covers of every issue, all the articles, the "Spider's Web" columns, the "Bullpen Bulletins," Stan "The Man" Lee's Soapboxes, and every vintage ad.
The comics were scanned in high-resolution from the original historic paper comic books of Marvel editor and collector Ralph Macchio.
Older issues are yellow with age; some images are a bit soiled, or have slight discolorations or small tears, creases, or light pen marks.
Just makes them all the more real.
And that's not all: you can print out the comics to your heart's content if you'd prefer to read them the old-fashioned way.
What's not to like?
Spider-Man not your cup of tea?
No problema: Marvel's given many other superheroes the same digital treatment, creating similar CD sets for the Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, and the X-Men.
Something to do when the meeting bogs down, or rounds deteriorate.
No one'll ever know.
[via George Gene Gustines and the New York Times]
New York University design students at the Tisch School For The Arts embedded electroluminescent materials into the design pattern of wallpaper.
By incorporating a built-in light sensor, the wallcovering responds to the lighting requirements of a room, acting as a decorative element when the room is naturally bright, then brightening into useful lighting when the room grows dark.
Add a solar-powered battery, and you can manually increase or decrease the light intensity.
Yahoo Traffic Reports
No, not another website visitor compiler; rather, it's Yahoo's attempt to get out ahead of Google in the area of real-time road condition reports.
Whenever you look up an address or driving directions, you can get a "reality check" of sorts by clicking the "View Traffic on Map" box to the right of your map.
Different icons designate construction activity and traffic accidents.
When you click on one, a pop-up window displays details and the severity of the delay.
The map also indicates current traffic speeds as reported by roadside monitors.
No links yet, though, to the traffic cameras operated by various local transportation departments, to let you see with your own eyes how things look.
The new traffic reports are available for 70 U.S. metropolitan areas.
Yahoo feels Google's hot breath, no question.
Google bought Keyhole, a satellite mapping service originally created by and for the CIA, on October 27 of this year.
Immediately, they lowered the price of a year's subscription from $70 to $30 a year.
With Keyhole, Google's able to overlay near-real-time photos on maps and graphics, creating a tool of enormous potential and power.
Look for Google to offer, in the not-too-distant future, real-time photos and video of traffic conditions taken not from helicopters but from outer space, beamed right into your car.
You'll even be able to turn on a transponder and see your forlorn vehicle, stopped in a sea of similar rush hour traffic.
[via the Washington Post]
This site is a kind of "guide for the perplexed" for movies, videos, DVDs, music and games.
It employs a mathematical approach to popularity: linking to dozens of reviews in print publications and on websites, it converts the evaluations to numbers ranging from 1 (truly awful) to 100 (sheer genius).
Then it averages the figures (giving more weight to reviews from better-known sources) to yield a "metascore."
"Sideways" tops the current crop of movies with a 92, while current box-office leader "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" comes in at 60.
Game of the Year honors went to "Half-Life 2," with a metascore of 97.
The site is based in Santa Monica, California (though why the physical location of a company or business or website should matter at all anymore I'm not sure).
[via the Washington Post]
DefendAir Radio Shield Paint
If you lie awake at night worrying about wardrivers, this stuff's for you.
If you think wardrivers only take part in battles, you don't need this paint.
It's a flat gray (dare I stay stealthy gray?) latex house paint ($69/gallon) laced with copper and aluminum fibers to form an electromagnetic shield around your crib.
From the website:
- This specially formulated flat interior paint will help reduce the transmission of radio waves through walls, ceilings and doors.
A great solution for protecting your Wi-Fi, Wi-Max, Bluetooth or any wireless network in the 5GHz or less frequency range.
Create a field of protection around your wireless network.
Paint a shield on one wall or around your entire house.
Based on the refinement of the Faraday cage principle.
DefendAir can be used to block radio wave interference and noise and prevent radio wave leakage.
One coat has the shielding range of 100MHz - 2.6GHz.
With just a few coats DefendAir has a shielding range up to 5GHz.
Tested according to IEEE 299-1991 standard.
Actual performance depends on the user environment.
We recommend multiple coats for better shielding.
DefendAir Radio Shield paint is an acrylic latex paint ensuring long-lasting color and durability.
It is non-toxic, non-flammable, and non-hazardous.
DefendAir can be applied by brush or roller like ordinary latex paint, but cannot be used with a sprayer.
Contains 1 gallon (128 fluid ounces).
[via Adam Baer and the New York Times]