Monday, June 30, 2008

Close to Home

I have, thankfully, not had to blog about cancer much lately. But it's never far from me.

Recently, a friend and coworker lost his mother to cancer. He posted the eulogy he delivered for her on his blog. Not that you need to be reminded, but I guess sometimes it helps to remember that these are not just statistics. Real, wonderful people are losing their lives to cancer, and every one of them has touched the lives of countless others.

Cancer affects us all, in one way or another. Stay strong, help out, and stay healthy.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Snow Bunny, Revisited

I meant to post this when I saw it a couple of weeks ago, but I just remembered today.

Tom Stienstra, who writes the Outdoors column for the San Francisco Chronicle, recently reported on a study of outdoor sports injuries. I was quite surprised, not so much by the fact that snowboarding appeared on the list, but more by the fact that it was far and away the leading cause of trips to the emergency room:
Twenty-six percent of all outdoor injuries reported by hospitals were snowboarders. This is stunning since snowboarding is not available across vast swaths of America, yet the sport creates 1 of 4 injuries in the outdoors.
Really: 26%. Next highest on the list was sledding, at 11%. The snowboarding number is just stunning. Hiking comes next at 6%, followed by mountain biking and personal watercraft at 4% each. My decision to stick to skiing seems better all the time.

The other thing that caught my attention in the column was Stienstra's recounting of his first snowboarding lesson, which sounds much like mine:
I took my first snowboard lesson two year ago with a group of a dozen 7 to 10 year olds and fell 53 times. Over and over, it felt like I was in pro wrestling and King Kong had just hoisted me over his head and slammed me to the canvas on my back. At least I didn't land on my head. An emergency room doctor told me that snowboarders show up with more broken collar bones than anything else, along with concussions, broken wrists and, in catastrophic cases, spinal injuries.

Ouch. Get outside, but play safe.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Smart Appliances

The era of smart appliances is upon us. And for the most part, this should be a good thing. The ability to adjust your thermostat remotely, or enable your air conditioner to adjust to power availability and pricing is just good sense. And even the ability of vendors to remotely diagnose problems instead of sending repair people makes great sense.

On the other hand, it behooves one to be smart about making smart appliances. This notion apparently didn't occur to the makers of the Jura Impressa F90 coffee maker. This is, in fact, the big techie nightmare: that some relatively innocuous, non-critical system opens a huge hole in the security that can lead to wider problems.

The fact that someone can reprogram your coffee maker to pour too much water in the cup is annoying, but can be fixed. The fact that your coffee maker can compromise your computer and therefore potentially your entire home network is downright frightening. Attacking the larger network via consumer commodity products is insidious and potentially devastating. Recent stories about vulnerabilities in wireless routers (you have changed your admin password, haven't you?) and digital picture frames highlight the social engineering aspect of this problem: taking advantage of naive customers to gain access to their systems, from where further mischief can be launched.

Caveat emptor.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Two-fer!

There's an old saying about baseball, that if you go out to the ballpark every day, you'll see something you've never seen before. Well, tonight I saw not one, but two things I'd never seen before.

The first was a very cool play where Omar Vizquel stole home with two outs and the bases loaded. I've seen a steal of home before (not often), but always as part of a double steal. This was just a case of an alert base runner catching the pitcher asleep at the wheel. Good video in this clip. Better one here.

And the second new thing was that with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, just as A's closer Huston Street was winding up for a pitch to Fred Lewis, the infield sprinklers came on. It took a couple of minutes for the grounds crew to get them turned off again, at which point Street made quick work of Lewis. It was a weird little moment.

Really not a very good game, overall, but definitely worth going to for those unique events.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cancer News

I just saw this post over at Pharyngula. It's a wonderful article about how scientific medical research is making a huge difference in survival rates for children with cancer.

As I've said many times, cancer is a horrible thing, and we need to work hard to make sure fewer people get it and make sure those who do can get better. And the answer to that is research.

Support it.

Monday, June 09, 2008

And for my Next Trick...

Excellent! Where is our next big dive trip? Komodo. Home of komodo dragons.

I trust that our dive boat will be a little more attentive. It sure is pretty, anyway.

Monday, June 02, 2008

In Memoriam

[Updated with link to Commonwealth Club panel discussion.]

I interrupt my postings about my Galapagos vacation with a sad note.

One of the first e-mails I opened when I got back in Internet range was an announcement that a friend had passed away shortly after I left. Rory Root was not a close friend of mine, really more a friend of some of my close friends, but I liked him a lot, and had developed great respect as well as fondness for him.

Highly unconventional (like many of my friends!), Rory was a college dropout who owned and ran a comic-book store called Comic Relief in Berkeley. But to dismiss him as some kind of marginal social character would be grossly unfair. Rory had a passion for comic books and their newer relatives, graphic novels. And he made that passion work for him, building a strong, successful business and a great network of friends. We were all surprised (and proud!) when Rory was invited to speak on a panel at the Commonwealth Club last year (MP3 of that here).

In addition to the very nice postings on the Comic Relief website, there was a very good obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle this past weekend, and a lengthy posting on the Comics Reporter site as well.

The outpouring of stories and memories speaks volumes about the number of lives touched by this kind, passionate, gentle soul. Rory will be sorely missed by many.

I will resume my Galapagos postings, back-dated into May, shortly.