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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Swine Flu - Remarkable?

I was listening to NPR this morning, and they had a doctor (epidemiologist? immunologist? something like that) on to talk about Swine Flu (H1N1).

Now, there is a lot of coverage on Swine Flu lately, and I thought some of the things that the doctor said were very interesting.

  1. That Swine Flu and the Seasonal Flu have the same symptoms.
  2. That Swine Flu and the Seasonal Flu are treated using the same methods (fever reducer and fluids).
Now, you might forgive me for thinking at this point: what's the difference? If swine flu is no more dangerous, and is treated the same way, why the hullabaloo?

It turns out that the core difference is that the flu season has started early this year.

Interestingly, we had a relatively dry, cool summer. The areas that are being hardest hit (the south) had the driest summers. The flu spreads best in cold, dry environments. If you have been told that the flu has nothing to do with the weather, you've been misinformed.

Now, I'm not trying to imply causality here, but there's been so much misinformation, e.g. "57% of those tested showed positive for swine flu", that I thought I'd offer a possible explanation.

By the way, that statistic above? You probably didn't catch that 57% was the number of people who:

  1. Came to the hospital with flu-like symptoms
  2. Were tested (and they "selectively test"!). Selective testing means that they had severe symptoms and another compounding medical condition, like asthma.

You'll forgive me, then, for maybe thinking that the press is playing fast and loose with the numbers. And I love that the CDC publishes a map that shows "how geographically dispersed" the flu is. NO INDICATION OF SEVERITY. So a couple of cases, spread around == pandemic. Nuts.

Attribution: photo from Patrick Long

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Remove me from your mailing list.

If you are sending out newsletters, here's some advice:

Make it very easy to unsubscribe.

Here's why:

  1. It's just common decency.
  2. Users will not appreciate your lock in tactics, and it will tarnish your brand.
  3. Since it's hard to unsubscribe, they'll just mark you as spam.
If you require me to log in to unsubscribe, I'm marking you as spam.
If there is more than 1-2 steps to unsubscribe, I'm marking you as spam.

Ideally, put a link at the bottom of the email that says "unsubscribe". When clicked, it optionally asks, "are you sure?", and then unsubscribes the user. No fuss, no muss.

Image from Sarah G

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Android is actually "Getting There"

I finally have all the applications I need for the G1 to be truly useable, and at least give it parity with the Blackberry or iphone.

The main things:

Push (Exchange) email, in the form of a $25 download called Touchdown. This app is a bit wonky from a usability standpoint, but has consistently gotten better as the developer has released improved versions.

While I feel that this should be DEFAULT FUNCTIONALITY (are you listening Google?!), I can say it's worth the price, and I haven't really had any major problems with it once it was configured (configuration is a bit of a pain).

PPTP VPN: Thanks to Cyanogen for backporting this to CyanogenMod (if you're not running this, you're missing out on a better experience). This is slated to be included in the Donut release, but CyanogenMod has it now, and it works (although I haven't been able to get it working on WiFi).

Those were the two biggest things that were just *missing* from the Android stack, and I can actually recommend the G1 for business users. The PPTP thing makes me really happy, especially since the PPP daemon has probably supported it since the launch, but there was no way to properly drive it.

Photo by Max.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


My son has been spending all his "computer time" lately on a site called PlayCrafter: basically a flash gaming site, but also allows you to create your own games. The result is below:

I'm obviously biased, but he made the "hottest games" list. I'm trying to use this as an encouragement to delve deeper into the programming aspects of game development (wish me luck!).