The Other Side of the Shorties

Hey folks, I’m in the final push towards finishing this degree, so no promises regarding regular posting. So, here’s the shorties!

It’s easy to go after the more numerous target: yeah sure, doctors make a bunch of money. So if you’re trying to reduce medical costs, they have a target painted on their collective back.  Kindly don’t pay attention to the boatload of money healthcare organizations spend trying to get paid, and certainly don’t pay attention to profits.

Disconnect: To listen to the media, this proposed law in New York would let cops see if you’ve been texting before a crash. However, to listen to cops and the manufacturer of the product, it just says if you’ve been “using” your phone. So, can it tell whether I was “using” the phone legally with a hands free device? Can it tell whether I was “using” the phone to stream music through my stereo? Can it tell whether it was actually being “used” by a passenger? And can it tell whether the “use” was something I initiated, or a push notification from an app or my carrier? Unless the answer to all of the above is “yes” — and I find that doubtful — this is a dumb idea.

Vintage Vegas: nightlife.

The Freaking TPP: Maintaining [New] Balance.

Didn’t I say this?: Seriously, didn’t I say Google already had all the information? Oh, yeah. I did.

Jinkies!: Korean Pirate Ghost Ships!

And that’s all for tonight.

The Little Search Engine that Thought it was Smarter than Me

I’ve been using search engines and Boolean search terms since literally before there was a Google.  Back in the old days, you actually had to use some care and know some things about your topic before you started. Some of those search engines were sufficiently dim that — no joke — a search for “ants” might turn up restaurANTS and consultANTS. This actually happened to a lady I know.

Search engines got better and more numerous in the late 90s and early 2000s. Each had its own strength and weaknesses. On the Macintosh, there was actually a tool that let you use one search query on multiple search engines. This was a boon to me, since I was working as a researcher at the time. I could get Yahoo and Lycos and Ask Jeeves and all those other search engines to dance together and spit out what my bosses wanted to know in far less time than most people — partly because I knew what to ask.

Then this wonderful new search engine called Google came to my attention. It blew all the competition out of the water. Google was so good at what it did that “to Google” replaced “to do a web search” in our collective vocabularies. Over the years, Google got mostly better at finding what most people want to know. You could start asking it questions: what is the Capital of France; where can I get Thai food in Seattle; what is the airspeed of an unladen swallow? By the way, Google autocompletes that last one by the time you get 2 letters in to “airspeed.”

And here’s where it started getting dumber. It sounds like a brilliant idea to tailor your searches towards your history, right? If you are constantly looking up medical articles, you are likely to want more. Ok, but what if you were looking up anti-vaccine arguments for a school project? Google will happily help you make a tin-foil hat. Look up arguments against Hillary Clinton? Be prepared for biased articles every time you want to know about politics. There is a way to turn this feature off, and I recommend it. I have no idea how many arguments on the internet center on “Look, every time I search Google on this issue, X comes up.” Yeah, because Google decided that’s what you want to hear!

This ability of Google to find what it thinks you want instead of what you actually asked comes up in odd places. This brings me to this morning’s adventure. I am doing research on a specific zip code for a project:

  • How many parks are there in my target zip code, Google? Well, here’s a park in the next zip code over — because surely you actually want information on nearby parks, right?
  • What grocery stores are there in that zip code, Google? Well, there’s these 3, but wouldn’t you rather shop at the better-rated store across the street in the next zip code? And hey, will a convenience store do? And what about the places that you usually shop at a mile farther down the road? They’re open and traffic is clear!

In the old days, a search engine would have been literalist. Yes, the convenience stores would have turned up as grocery stores because most of them carry certain basic grocery products. But if that address didn’t have the right zip code at the end, it would not have turned up. I concede that most of the time “near” is a better answer. However, sometimes precision matters.

 

Things I Learned This Semester: Summer Nursing School

Another semester has ended, and that means it’s time for another set of interesting things I learned.

On Google Maps: When you notice Google suggesting a “short” route to an off-campus event that cuts through an historically bad neighborhood, it’s a good idea to assume that some of your classmates aren’t aware of that.

On Psych: I learned something important about myself: I am not cut out to work on a psych ward. However, mental health nursing does teach important skills that are needed in any nursing practice. There will always be patients and/or family members experiencing anxiety, grief, depression, or using ineffective coping mechanisms such as denial.

On Suicide Watch: Someone will tell the nurse almost anything if they think it will get them out of the legal hold. Oh, and these guys do important work.

On Assigned Groups: This semester I had the opportunity to work with people I would not have chosen. It was a good experience. You don’t get to pick your co-workers either.

On Florence Nightingale: Your brain is the most important tool you can bring onto your shift. Don’t forget to not only do your job, but leave the next nurse with the information she needs to do hers (please forgive my pronouns; most Med-Surg* nurses are still women).

On Alert: It is mentally exhausting to be paying close attention for long periods of time, even if you are mostly observing.

On Social Media: we say so much we shouldn’t online, that the Department of Health and Human Services can use Twitter to track potential emerging outbreaks.

On Nursing Specialties: Most people know there are jobs for nurses on hospital floors (Med-Surg = Medical-Surgical) and doctors offices. There are also nurses who provide home health, nurses who try to figure out how to reduce infections and other complications, nurses who work with the IT guys to make more effective hospital computing systems, and of course nurses who work in specialized areas of the hospital such as the emergency department, the operating room, or the catheterization lab.

More another day!

 

Double Down

The Freakin NSA

The Executive Director of Google says that the NSA is going to break trust in the internet, and thereby break the very internet itself. I don’t think the government cares. The NSA will do whatever it likes, thankyouverymuch. Further, it will do what it likes in whatever country it chooses! Ed Snowden still believes that the whole thing will be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Only problem with that is that by his own admission, none of the felonies uncovered have been prosecuted. A case has to get to the Supremes before it can be heard there. Chalk it up to terror-phobia.

The Freakin Economy

This is why I like Elizabeth Warren: she knows what she’s talking about and she’s not afraid to say it loudly. In this case, she’s willing to say the system is rigged against Joe and Jane Average, in favor Wall Street — a group of institutions almost as untouchable as the freakin NSA. Gee, maybe that’s why Americans are flat-out broke. And for African-American or Hispanic-American families, median assets are worth less than a decent used car. By the way, notice that infographic doesn’t say net assets, just assets. Oversight, or does that not reflect debt owed on assets?

In Closing:  a couple of TSA items; Can we please have more cops like this guy and fewer cops that see the public as a bunch of incipient criminals, please?; “shut the whole thing down“; fight to the death and reap the profits thereof; please be sure to take this quick ebola quiz courtesy of Southern Beale — you’re much more likely to encounter Enterovirus D68; two items on diabetes; and I didn’t get the memo either.

 

What does Google know about me?

I’ve been using Google well over a decade now. That’s how I learned that someone skilled and diligent can find out a surprising amount of information about almost anybody. Google therefore has a detailed history of my searches for as long as they actually keep data. This data is potentially available to law enforcement — maybe. It worries me that they might be tailoring search results to give users what are potentially biased links. This might contribute to various ideological “echo chambers” across the nation. Web history can be turned off in Google, and I recommend you use the settings to do so.

I use Gmail. It is very good at filtering spam, I can access it from computers other than my home computer easily, and emails arrive at my phone (more on that in a bit). Just by keeping track of senders and subject lines of emails, Google knows of several places I shop, what mailing lists I am subscribed to, that I receive some emails in Japanese, what sorts of political views and charities I am likely to support, that I have a Twitter account, that I have historically had an interest in real estate, and what colleges I have attended. Remember, they only know more if they are actually reading my email and analyzing it in any way. I’m not as worried as I probably ought to be about this, because my attitude is “Don’t put anything on the internet you wouldn’t read out loud to your mother, your boss, and a judge.” Hi mom!

Thanks to Google Calendar, they also know the rough outline of my schedule and the first names of friends I routinely meet for lunch. Services like Schedulicity are very good at syncing with Google Calendar, so the mothership also knows of certain service providers, how often I see them, and what services they perform for me.

Via Google+, they know of several people with whom I have personal, familial, or professional relationships.

I also use an Android phone. Here’s another way they know oodles about me. It syncs with all those services above, which is horribly convenient since I don’t have to carry a date book or sit at my computer; my phone has my calendar and contact information for people I know, and I can update things on the spot. My phone also has a GPS in it, and can inform me of weather or even how long it will take me to get home. Is this information relayed to the mothership? I must assume it does until proven otherwise. I have a bunch of apps on my phone, of course. The easiest way to get apps onto an Android phone is of course to get them through the Android store. Therefore Google has a very, very good idea what apps I have and am likely to be using, whether they are productivity apps or little time wasters.

If I used Blogger, they would know even more about me and my views!

And this is all information I have handed over more or less willingly. Even if they are not a CIA front, a surveillance minded government would be looking at how to mine that internet gold.

 

In Closing: I have a whole bunch of health and diet links today; a few random education links too; ok, here’s some NSA and privacy news, special up-is-down edition; Putin; pro-choice and pro-actual-life; that’s kinda what I thought; at least the White House got one thing right; sure sounds like an excuse to write more prescriptions and make more money to me; gravity and evolution are both theories; keep riding your Congressmouse’s butt on this and that; trolled; on wages and poverty; science fiction; snowplow parents; I doubt the Pope gives a hoot about the views of the “liberal media.”

A Few Words about Taxes and the IRS

Forbidden Fruit. Apple has been getting grilled for following the law in a manner that reduces their taxes. Frankly, most of us choose to do legal things to minimize our tax liability. Give a charitable donation? Buy a house with a mortgage? You could be guilty of following the law! I’m with the CEO of Google and Bill Gates on this one: Don’t like it? Change the law!

The Scandal That Wasn’t: So thanks to Karoli of Crooks and Liars for actually digging up some facts to go with our conspiracy theory witch hunt on the IRS allegedly investigating too many conservative groups. When roughly 80% of applicants are conservative groups, you should be shocked if roughly 80% of those investigated aren’t conservative groups! But hey, let’s not let reality get in the way of a good rant.

That’s it for now.

In Closing: a small example of manmade climate change; cats at sea; so that’s why; supply and demand; an interesting man; inequality; duh; they deserve better; dumb idea; about time; even handed reporting on immigration reform; family leavecrack babies; and I hardly consider it “freak” when something crashes into it.

Happy Thanksgiving

 

In Closing: That would be bad; Googlegator; Japan Crush; Rolling Jubilee gets more press; the last cooler than average month was during the Reagan Administration (maybe hell froze over when he compromised with Democrats or raised taxes?); Lost Decade, American Style; Forbes and USA Today disagree on the buyer, but agree that somebody will make your freaking Twinkies (and screw workers in the process); of course, you could just make your own freaking Twinkies; maybe if the so-called adults made it clear that we must treat others with respect, this wouldn’t be a problem; vintage pictures of Japan; Susie’s right; so is Robert.

Addressing a trend

I’ve been getting more than my fair share of comment spam recently (not quite enough that I’m ready to use one of those “prove you’re human” things). Lately, one of the topics is HCG diets.

Let me make one thing perfectly crystal clear about HCG: it is the only diet drug required by the FDA to have a black box warning saying it does not work! Really, that’s the only thing you need to know about HCG. Just say no. It’s a waste of your money and potentially dangerous.

As for the new “safer” homeopathic HCG drops, they’re still sugar water. Further, even if homeopathy did work, the “Law of Similars” — “a substance that when taken in crude form causes a set of symptoms or disease in a healthy person can cure similar symptoms occurring during an illness when treated with small, often infinitesimal, potentised doses of the same substance” — would suggest that diluting a weight loss “drug” for homeopathic use would make the user gain weight, wouldn’t it?

It is at this point that I will point out that I’m not a doctor, nor a dietician. I’m only pointing out two things: HCG is FDA proven to not work for weight loss, and mixing it with a bunch of water isn’t likely to make it more effective.

While we are on the topic, here’s some tips for not letting the holidays ruin your diet.

In Closing: tricorder; oops; The Jungle returns; doing good work; what??; free markets won’t fix health care; which reality will win, not enough money to retire or not enough health to keep working?; couples and money; the near poor; I’ve always thought it would be a great idea to have a “third party debate,” and apparently there was; and who needs MacGyver when Dolph Lundgren really exists??

Shorties Awakening

When Al Jazeera points this out, it’s a problem: School to Prison Pipeline. If you find this topic interesting (or horrifying, whatever), the ACLU is a great place to start.

Old Flowers: In this case, 32,000 years old. For those keeping track, that’s over 5 times as old as young-Earth creationists think the world is. <sarcasm> Miracle, or Satan’s lies? </sarcasm>

The Last Ninja: Is an engineer who admits that most of what he learned has no place in the modern world.

Break it down: Here’s where Google’s ad revenues come from.

Burnout: Half of doctors report some signs of it. I’m really disappointed that they didn’t even try to look at why they might feel that way.

It’s not your imagination: The middle class earned less than they did a decade ago.

Apparently Alabama law allows death threats on the job: Seriously.

That can’t be good: For all the news coverage of Romney talking about his energy plan, he specifically refused to go into details where the press might hear it (If this is true, shame on the press for not pointing out that they have an incomplete story). So, does he plan on making up details to suit his audience, or is his plan so out there that he doesn’t dare risk the general public learning the details? Either way, do we want him in charge? What is already known is attracting criticism from many places.