We Offer “Warm Showers”

For fun we joined a sharing site for cyclists called Warm Showers. Similar to Couch Surfing. We’ve already had a couple guys from Austin stop by on their way down the coast to San Francisco, a trip I did myself about 25 years ago. They were great to talk to and we shared a meal.

Charles and Josh, Warm Showers guests

Charles and Josh – from Austin

 

Looks like next week we may have a couple ladies from Washington.

And the great thing about the site? Made with Drupal!

Wireless Headphones – At Last!

Over the years I must have spent well over $150 on earbuds for my IPhone. They were always breaking. I admit I was hard on them: Dropping my phone which would pull the wires; getting the wires caught on door knobs or branches; wadding them up to stick in my pocket. Eventually one or both of the buds crapped out and I’d have to make a trip to K-Mart or Target to buy another cheap pair.

I’ve also spent countless minutes untangling them as got ready to run or exercise at the gym or work in the yard. What a waste of time!

I’ve thought about getting wireless headphones that run off bluetooth and had read a couple reviews of expensive ones ($80$120) and not being sure how they would work I hesitated. But a couple days ago I made an impulse buy at Costco for this Motorola set as it was only $50 and I must say I am really happy I did. I may look a bit more like a dork but really what do I care? Probably no more dorky that the earbud wires dangling from my head.

The sound is quite good (I listen to podcasts mostly, but even music isn’t bad). I thought I might have a problem of breakup if I put the IPhone in my pocket but the stream has been very consistent. Once the headset was charged and synced to my phone the first time it reconnected right away every time I turned it back on. It’s very light weight and comfortable and didn’t even bother me when I lay down on a bench to do some dumbbell work. So, unless I manage to break these which unless I run over them with my truck seems unlikely, I think I have found a gizmo that will really improve my life and end up saving money over time.

The affiliate link is if you don’t have a Costco nearby or maybe your Costco isn’t carrying this one. You’re welcome.

 

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Confessions of an Apple Fan Boy

Update: Apple’s Tim Cook Visits Foxconn IPhone Plant in China

Update 2: Apple Supplier in China Pledges Big Labor Changes

I have the new iPad. I confess. I have the original iPad. I have an iPhone, a MacBook Pro and we have several other  Mac desktops and laptops of various vintage and utility in our family. Ever since the New York Times series on Apple and its relationship with manufacturers in China came out I have been conflicted about my slavish adoration of all things Apple. Of course, I knew most of the devices I use were built in China and I knew the conditions were often harsh and sometimes deadly. Then I heard Mike Daisy’s dramatic story as presented on This American Life as I waited for the new iPad to be released and my guilt began to mount.

I also knew that the factories in China are not having a hard time finding workers because as bad as some of the conditions and pay are, they are much better than the abject poverty most of them face in rural China. I am aware that Apple is not alone among tech companiesMy iPad taking advantage of China’s low cost labor and efficient supply chains. Indeed, if I look around my house or probably your house, there are hundreds of items in common use that are “Made in China”.

So what am I supposed to do with this information? Should I refrain from using Apple products? What about all the other items built by “exploited” workers? What should my moral stance be? What should any of us do in the face of exported manufacturing jobs that will never come back to the U.S.?

I listened to This American Life’s retraction show on a drive up from Santa Rosa where, among other things, I visited an Apple store and had a very good experience. But the retraction show was more about the journalistic integrity of the Mike Daisy story and NPR than it was about the core issue. At the end, the question still hung in the air. How are we to feel about the conditions of Chinese factory workers? What are we to do to make it better? BTW, the retraction show is an incredible listen. In some ways, more moving, powerful and thought provoking than the original broadcast.

To add to the mess Apple, the richest company in the world, decided to spend some of it’s amassed wealth by giving dividends to investors and buying back stock, further driving up it’s share value. At first, I thought this was outrageous in the face of all the bad publicity around the China story.

But then I thought, maybe Apple is laying the groundwork for doing something much more radical than creating a new product that changes an entire market. Maybe Apple is paying off its investors while it plans a bigger gamble. Maybe Apple is going to lead the way in transforming the global manufacturing market by forcing its contractors to improve conditions and pay for all their workers. Not in just a small way, but in a big way.

What might happen if Apple did this? It would force other manufacturing contractors to raise their conditions and pay in order to compete. It would help create a bigger market for the very tech toys we in the U.S. gobble up as more people would be able to afford them. It would create a higher base for manufacturing jobs around the world that would then make our own worker pool seem more competitive (though there are other more complicated issues than labor cost involved in helping bring those kinds of jobs back to our shores) and it would further burnish Apple’s image as a company that “Thinks Different”.

So, this is what I can do. I can keep buying the gadgets I love. And I can write this blog as a tiny effort to encourage Apple to become an even more visionary company that helps transform global economics. After all, what else does it need to prove? Maybe this will be Steve Jobs’ true legacy.

I’m sure my logic is flawed and my reasoning is really rationalization. If you think so, let me know in the comments.

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Memory, or Its Lack

For some odd reason I agreed to be in a play. I haven’t acted in a real play in many years. It’s less than 2 weeks to go before we open in Look Back in Anger at the Ferndale Repertory Theatre and I am still working on my lines! I am only in one scene. But I have a lot of lines in that scene. It’s been a real struggle for me. It may be age. It may be lack of practice with the specific skill of line memorization. But it may be that I rely on external sources to store and and provide instant retrieval of information so that the muscle of memorization of has atrophies.

I rely on my IPhone to remind me of tasks, appointments, birthdays, anniversaries. I have Google and Wikipedia to provide near instant facts and information that my old brain cannot possibly hold on to.

Look Back in AngerI’m getting there, with lots of extra work and help from friends and family. But you never know. My brain still freezes at moments and lines I know simply disappear in the ether. So, you could come to the play just to see if I will crash and burn. Kind of like going to a NASCAR race. I may get by with a little paraphrase here and there but you wouldn’t know unless you have memorized the lines yourself. I might pull it off without a hitch. In which case, you might even enjoy the play for it’s own value. You’ll recognize me. I play the old guy.

Healthcare and Mobile Convergence

This is a slightly edited and enhanced version of an article that appeared November, 2011 as part of the Times-Standard/Redwood Technology Consortium Tech Beat series.

The health industry in slowly adopting technology on a large scale, moving to electronic documents, computer generated prescriptions and information sharing. It’s been a rough road as standards and privacy issues have to be grappled with beyond the sheer technical problems. But the trade-offs in efficiency, accuracy and data gathering will be well worth the struggle. Mobile technology will play an increasing role in both institutional and personal health care advances.

An example of the convergence of data and mobile applications is the recent release of an IPad app for health practitioners by Practice Fusion a leader in electronic health records. The app allows doctors instant access to patient records in a secure environment from wherever they are as long as they are connected to the Internet.

While institutional adoption of mobile technology is starting to happen, another revolution in personal health monitoring is also taking place. An explosion of apps and add-on devices for mobile devices are putting a wealth of data gathering, sharing and eventually diagnosis in to the hands of ordinary people and health care workers in the field.

IPhoneThere are quite a few tools already, though in many cases they are still rather basic. Most of the consumer apps and devices focus on diet and exercise monitoring. However, the future is bright as developers begin to understand the mobile platform and stretch its capabilities At the same time mobile systems continue to become more powerful and flexible. Additionally part of the delay of the release of more serious apps and devices has been the long approval process required by the Food and Drug Administration. However, according to a recent article in Business Week that process should soon be streamlined allowing for a flood of new advances for both health care workers and individuals.

A Few Current Applications and Devices

An example of the type of advanced app that can improve health care is described in an article on GigaOm. The app was developed by Dr. John Moore at the MIT Media Group:

One such app enables HIV patients at Boston Medical Center to visualize how HIV develops into AIDs, how the virus attacks their T cells and what happens if they do or do not take their cells.  Using that app, he saw the percentage of patients sticking to their drug regime soar from 25 percent to 95 percent, Moss said.

Another application recently released is an ultrasound device that plugs in to a smartphone and allows a health worker to perform an on site scan.

My Medications, provided by the American Medical Association provides a convenient way for individuals to enter medical information such as allergies, prescriptions, and immunizations and to share that with primary care physicians.

AT&T recently released WellDoc Diabetes Manager that allows patients to monitor glucose levels and receive advice base on the input.

IBGStar is a blood glucose meter plug-in for the iPhone iPhone BGM plug-in will interact with a not yet Apple-approved iBGStar Diabetes Manager App that will help users track blood glucose, carbs intake and insulin dose.

In a more general consumer market, bluetooth phone device maker, Jawbone just came out with the UP, a wristband that monitors walking exercise, provides alerts for prolonged sedentary behavior (like sitting at your computer), monitors sleep habits and diet. The wristband is plugged in to the iPhone sound jack and the data is off-loaded to a free web app and can be shared on a social website.

ITriage is an iPhone/Android app that helps you answer the questions, “What medical condition could I have?” and “Where should I go for treatment?”

The Future is Near

It’s clear that we’re just at the beginning of this mobile revolution. In the next few years expect to see devices and apps become much

Spock with Tricorder

Live Long and Prosper

more sophisticated. Researchers are testing an MRI scanner attached to a smartphone that can detect cancer. And there is a 10 million dollar prize being offered for the development of a device that can scan a body and diagnose a variety of ailments. It’s called the Tricorder Prize, named after the device that Spock used in Star Trek. The future is coming fast. (FastCompany also has a good article on mobile health in the February print issue which I’ll link to if they put it online)

More Links

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