January 30, 2008

SprintPCS online account stuff sucks big time.

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:34 pm by a11en

Another mini-rant here- will keep it very short. SprintPCS’s online account management system is completely crappy. I can’t figure out anything on their account system, and rarely can I ever log into the account online. It’s so horrible that next go around I’ll likely get rid of my account with them.

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January 25, 2008

Tax Rebate- I have a better idea…

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:51 pm by a11en

Another quick one today, guys. So, this is my comment on the new tax-rebate thing headed through congress. Interesting idea. I get a check (maybe) perhaps sometime in August? Hmm… I have a way better idea. Stop taking my money in the first place!!! Heck, if “you” had stopped taking my money in the first place, I’d have had my cash back before May of last year! Now *that’s* a quick rebate eh? Think that might have stimulated the economy? Not taking my money in the first place, allowing me to get more interest on it over a longer period of time? If I had had that money, I most likely would have spent it.

Every single rebate is 100% made up of money taken from someone who would have spent it earlier. It’s very possible that that money would have had a serious effect on the recent slowing in growth of the economy. Even if the cash had only been placed in an interest bearing account, the standard rate, whatever it is now (let’s say 4%) would have been added to the cash. It would have increased the purchasing power of the institution, the loaning power, etc. More people would have been able to purchase a car, or get a mortgage… every bit of that cash that is now finally being returned (to who Congress decides needs it, not to who actually owns that money) could have been creating growth and wealth and product in our current economy.

Wow, I sure am glad that Congress is so darned smart.

January 24, 2008

Bibdesk 1.3.13 apparently is superstitious

Posted in Mac, Mac Software, Work at 2:37 am by a11en

(Mac Only) Just a quick post today. For those of you who are Bibdesk users and are still using Tiger, a small warning. Bibdesk 1.3.13 appears to break some things. I can’t do a simple drag and drop file addition/auto-filing in 1.3.13. There seems to be some serious changes to the code and new preview windows etc., in the item info screen. These changes are nice, but I can’t live without drag and drop file addition/autofiling and simple click opening of PDFs into preview (or skim). So, I’ve deprecated to 1.3.12 to get back to the working system I had before my update. Hopefully 1.3.14 will fix things. Guess the number 13 was a bad one for Bibdesk.

January 22, 2008

Under 40 Mammogram Notes

Posted in Medicine, Rants at 8:44 pm by a11en

This is an adult topic, but it’s not necessarily “adult.” The things talked about here are scientific in nature, not erotic.

So, I was researching this evening something that stuck in my head (a friend brought this up recently due to something she experienced) regarding Mammography. Basically, it’s an x-ray of breast tissue. Unfortunately, for shorter women, and women who aren’t well endowed, it often is difficult to get a Mammogram performed properly. To make matters worse, there is a slight increase in risk due to the gamma-radiation of the Mammogram for women under the age of 40. To top this all off, it turns out that women under the age of 40 often have regular breast density differences just due to their more active hormones, etc. There are apparently missed cancers in differing breast-mass Mammograms, as well as false-positives for differing breast-density which is often completely normal for women under 40. Very interesting.

A 1998 article on the subject [1] suggests that due to these factors, Mammography is not useful for younger women, and suggests that directed ultrasound examination be used to determine the type of mass and whether it is clinically suspect. The reason for the directed ultrasound is quite simple… if they go running around doing a complete ultrasound examination, they will likely find many more masses which are not suspect due to the differing breast density in younger women. Then, if the mass is clinically suspect, fine-needle aspiration which has an excellent rate of determining benign or malignant masses can be used. Then, decisions about what to do with both can be discussed. Benign of course you can simple do a follow-up clinical examination to determine if the mass has grown or not, and any other subsequent ultrasound or FNA can be done at that time.

Basically, Mammography has changed very little since the 1970s, and over a billion dollars spent in trying to update it to make it a better screening method has failed to improve it’s effectiveness. [2] Couple this with very low cancer rates in women below 40, the increase in risk due to radiation, and the density differences which cause false-positives, Mammography appears to be somewhat unimportant and unuseful for women under 40. One of the reasons I suspect it is a preferred test, is quite simply due to its cost. Cost appears to be $50-150.00, quite an easy bill to foot. The problem quite simply is that if it misses smaller masses and has false-positives on varying tissue density, it doesn’t appear that useful.

The reason this came up was quite simply because I was confused at the call for a mammogram in a friend who is well under 40 (actually under 35)… that lead me to dig a bit more, and I realized that the clinical suggestions are such that there is not much that indicates mammography in women that young. [Not just the screening procedures.] So, I feel quite likely this is another case of a doc (here a practitioner not an MD) just following rote the marching orders, failing to realize that age was an important factor here, and with a simple test, why not? Well, why not is quite simple- poor efficacy (false positives and false negatives) and an (albeit small) increase in gamma-radiation exposure. No reason to do so, why do it? Besides, that very same day (within a half-hour) she’s scheduled for an ultra-sound examination (I wonder if it’s a comprehensive US, or if it’s just directed- better be directed, or else I’ll think someone is not doing their job very well over there…). The ultrasound does a much better job at imaging masses in women this age, and will likely just confirm an earlier diagnosis of fibroadenoma for similar masses in the same patient.

I get quite tired of docs who can’t stay current with these things… I experienced this with another friend who had been mis-diagnosed with a very crazy disease. Reading and talking with the experts in the field revealed that quite likely the docs were being way over cautious, and that there was very little to indicate the extreme (and somewhat rare) disease classification was warranted.

In this litigation crazy world, however, I can understand overly cautious docs. Likely they’re doing everything they can for the first friend, simply because litigation of missed cancers in younger women is much much higher than in older women. So, again, litigation rules the marching orders for docs, not the actual science behind the medicine. The hippocratic oath suggests to me that even a slight gamma-radiation exposure when not warranted may be simply removed to prevent any slight possibility of complication in the future. Of course, if she was litigation crazy, she could simply suggest that any future breast cancer was likely caused by the non-indicated use of a mammogram while she was younger than 40. [How’s that for a scare, hospital lawyers?]

Update: The first friend had her examinations today. She asked the practitioners again about the mammogram, but they gave her line something like: “We need the mammogram to help support the ultrasound.” So, she says to them: “Well, ok, I think I understand, but I’m going to wait on the mammogram right now because I’m uncomfortable with the test at this time.” She keeps her ultrasound appointment, is in and out for the test. (I had time to read maybe 2 long paragraphs and make notes for that chapter.) The ultrasound tech confirmed everything I said here, as well as suggested that for my friend, it would be a bad idea due to her breast size. The ultrasound went perfectly, did a fantastic job of imaging the mass, and it was found to be a simple fluid filled cyst. Had she gone ahead with her mammogram, she likely would have gotten a bazillion hits on different masses, and then the rush to find out which mass may be cancerous would begin. When, due to the extremely high false-positive rate (90%) for mammography, coupled with the under 40 cancer rate (less than 4%) every mass would likely be benign. I suggest an alternative method… create a grid of dots on the breasts, and do FNA’s all over the breast tissue. At least the efficacy would be significantly higher than in a Mammogram. [Of course I don’t actually suggest this- but it would be more effective than mammography in young women. Likely you’d be doing FNA’s all day long with all the masses that would show up in mammography.] Finally a simple disclaimer- I’m not an expert, I’ve just read some articles on this. So, don’t take all the above as rote. Find the actual journal articles, read them, and make up your own opinions. [It’s surprising how easy it is to do.]

  1. M. Morrow, S. Wong, and L. Venta. The evaluation of breast masses in women younger than forty years of age. Surgery, 124(4):634–641, 1998. (via Science Direct)
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mammography

January 17, 2008

Test post

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:56 pm by a11en

This is a test.

Ha… since Big D. asked about what I was testing- I’m testing the ability for TextMate to post to a blog. 🙂 And now I’m testing how TextMate edits a blog post. Sorry it wasn’t more exciting- like blogging via my internal wifi transceiver I installed in my left nostril last year. Upgrading that to 802.11n is going to be a b!@##.

Hope you guys have a wonderful weekend!!

January 13, 2008

BibDesk and TextMate don’t play nice together…

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:52 pm by a11en

Well, this may be the nail in the coffin for my use of TextMate for LaTeX writing.  It’s quite sad as well, because I was beginning to like things like drag-n-drop pictures to \includegraphics{} etc.  But, there’s one thing I desperately love about BibDesk and that’s it’s autocompletion feature- it works so well in all cocoa windows.  Sure, there’s some crazy code that parses your bibtex file itself within TextMate, but honestly, it can’t possibly be as nice as BibDesk’s feature.  There’s also an Applescript work around, which is nice but horrendously ugly and not inline on the screen.

It’s quite sad, really, because I was starting to have high-hopes for TextMate as a LaTeX editor.  I guess I shouldn’t try and change things… iTeXMac is working well for me, and it has visual Math buttons etc., for help with odd-ball insertions (won’t have to memorize a 30+ list of completions for math-mode).

Ugh.  I want the best of both worlds… but it appears that TextMate doesn’t play nice with NSText alterations- which I believe is how the input manager plugin works for BibDesk.  Appears they just are completely incompatible.

I rarely write enough code to make TextMate something that I want to keep around… I was just beginning to understand TextMate’s abilities as well… but, it’s a bit to VI in some ways for me… and the die-hard VI users will likely just stick with VI…

We’ll see how I come to terms with this.  Not having the quick and easy auto-completion is a killer for me… I write and cite with almost the same breath in my TeX documents.

sucks big time…

January 6, 2008

Lost art of writing…

Posted in 7 Habits, FountainPens, Paper at 12:10 am by a11en

Apica Wire-Bound Notebook

A recent TED lecture was just posted. I’m a sometimes TED watcher, often disagree-er, but often agree-er as well. [Sorry for the mangled english- sometimes making up words is just more easier than using real ones.]

The lecture was short and sweet. In the lecture, Lakshmi Pratury discusses the legacy her father left to her. The interesting thing, is the legacy he left wasn’t monetary. It was his written word. [Apparently wordpress hates TED embedded video… so here’s a link: Lakshmi Pratury on why you should write.]

You see, her father passed away and left her a journal and letters he wrote to and about her. He tried to convey to her his thoughts on things, especially on her (how to improve and I’m sure what not to change). In this manner he left her something tangible and intangible at the same time. Something of his own hand, that she can now hold, and something of his own thought, that she can turn to when missing him.

That is an amazing example of what the written word can do. Touching ink to paper can mean much more than just a half-hour of your time to address a loved one. If you’re like me, you have so much going on in your life that often doing just that is the last thing on your mind.

I implore you to take out that stationery, that fine fountain-pen, that special “Haute Couture” ink, and spend a few moments writing. [I will do the same.]

January 1, 2008

Chief Illiniwek > USC Trojans?

Posted in Rants at 7:30 pm by a11en

So, how in the world is the USC Trojans less racist than Chief Illiniwek?  This is a prime example of a one-sided view of racism.  During the half-time show at today’s Rose-Bowl, I saw a Trojan warrior running around on the field with a sword and brush-helmet, and the whole band wearing similar clothing.  All in all, if I had Trojan heritage, I’d suspect I would be as affronted as if I had Illinois Indian (yes, that’s the name of the tribe) heritage.

So, just because there isn’t a tribe that we can pay for the rights to use their image, we can’t use the honorable position of the Chief (which many a young UofI man has fought hard to become and is a revered position)?  Unlike the Seminoles who have an Indian run in on horse-back and fire off an arrow?

So, I ask you, how is the Trojans less racists than the Illini/Chief Illiniwek?  Or, less racist than the Seminoles, if you can’t see that discussion clearly?

It reminds me of an old friend of mine who said that discrimination was only possible in a situation where a larger group of people were oppressing a smaller group of people.  Of course, never mind that if you check a dictionary this is not the case at all.  The only thing I can think of, is that since the Trojans are considered to be “white” and therefore are a larger group of the population, that they aren’t considered to be racially depicted in contrast to the minority American Indians (such as the Illinois tribe).

But, then again, should it surprise me with today’s popular idiot mentality which appears to be running rampant in this ever-PC world?

Speaking of which, another popular topic is the ever present “It’s for the children!”  Like the current Illinois smoking ban (went into effect today)… which I’m so thankful for being enacted… after all, we don’t want any of the 3 year olds who go to the local bars to get an ear infection (which is about the only statistically significant effect of breathing SHS… then again, most bars have modern ventilation systems, which negates that statistic…).  I’m very happy the Children who frequent bars will be safer now.  Speaking of which, here’s a useful TED video for you to watch if you have kids:  “5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do.

Sorry for the side-track there… Let’s just say that unless your team is named after an animal, an inanimate object, or a plant, you better change your mascot…