Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Do you, Dear Reader, recall when I wrote at great length about the crimes committed by Ferris Beuller in the classic movie about his Day Off? That kind of geekery is as apt for the law as it is for medicine. Now if only there were a doctor of some sort willing to learn about medicine and then use his or her education for our collective entertainment rather than the betterment of our fellow man.

Oh hey that happened yay – Dr. Ryan St. Clair of the Weill Cornell Medical College analyzes Home Alone and the various bodily harms therein:

The set-up: Thwarted by the BB gun at the back door, Marv runs around to the basement stairwell — which Kevin has deliberately iced. Once he has stumbled his way down into the dark basement, Marv grabs for what he thinks is the light bulb cord. It’s actually a rope attached to a steam iron that is propped up on the laundry chute door. The heavy iron comes plummeting down and smacks Marv in the face.

The doctor’s diagnosis: “Let’s estimate the distance from the first floor to the basement at 15 feet, and assume the steam iron weighs 4 pounds. And note that the iron strikes Marv squarely in the mid-face. This is a serious impact, with enough force to fracture the bones surrounding the eyes. This is also known as a ‘blowout fracture,’ and can lead to serious disfigurement and debilitating double vision if not repaired properly.”

Ha! Ha! “Serious disfigurement!” Oh, Kevin. You lovable scoundrel.

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant

Representing clients and losing their cases is hard enough. But no matter how badly a lawyer argues a case, the client’s still alive at the end of the day. (Unless you’re litigating over a will, but then the client wasn’t alive at the beginning of the day, now was he?)

Then there’s being a doctor. The stresses there are somewhat unique, to say the least.

A normal day at my job is hard: I’m running nonstop for 8-12 hours, I’m constantly interrupted, I have patients making demands of my attention and empathy, I’m saturated with information and need to make rapid decisions without adequate information, and I know that if I make an error or miss some important piece of information, the human, professional and financial consequences can be disastrous. It’s a pressure cooker.

And that’s a day where things go well. A bad day can be very bad indeed. Sometimes it’s just the emotional strain of dealing with particularly difficult patients. Maybe you go through a run of giving out terrible diagnoses. Maybe you deal with the death of a child. Or a patient who pulls at your heartstrings in some unique and personal way. Maybe someone dies on you unexpectedly. Worse, maybe someone dies on you and you’re not sure if it was your fault or not. Perhaps you know you made an error, and that you’re going to have to face accountability for it.

These are the days that drive physicians over the edge. I’ve had them, and I remember them so vividly even years later. There was the one lady with a gallbladder attack on Thanksgiving, many years ago. She had classic signs and I saw gallstones on my bedside ultrasound. She crashed and died right in front of me from a ruptured thoraco-abdominal aortic aneurysm. Her abdominal aorta had looked normal on my scan; the aneurysm was in the chest and ruptured into the thorax, which is very unusual. That didn’t make it any easier to go home and sleep that night.

Read the whole post on how Doctor “Movin’ Meat” deals with losing. Hint: based on the name of his blog, you can assume he employs gallows humor to cut the tension.

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant

On Friday, I co-hosted a panel at the 4th annual Capitol Camp in Albany. There were lots of really great panels to choose from, but I’m happy we had a good audience and a lively discussion.

My presentation was on the antiquated Freedom of Information Law process in New York State, specifically how to modernize it and the considerable benefits of doing so. You can watch the whole thing here, but make sure to watch my joke about South Dakota at 11:30. That might be my favorite part of the whole thing.

And thanks to Camille Jobin-Davis from the New York State Committee on Open Government for sharing her time and expertise with me and the rest of the discussion on FOIL.

Published on under A Day in the LifeGov 2.0

Remember the other day when I said if you’re reading software patent articles on tech news sites not written by Nilay Patel, you were doing it wrong? Let’s add “trademarks” to his beat:

News broke all over the web today that Apple had lost a “major” trademark case against a company called iFone that might prevent it from selling the iPhone in Mexico. The story seemed almost too good to be true, especially since Apple was the first to bring the suit against iFone, a small call center company that filed for its mark in 2003, four years before the iPhone came out. The tech media, in love with the idea that Apple’s litigious ways had backfired, took the story and ran with it.

Unfortunately, it just isn’t accurate — while Apple did lose an appeal over the iFone trademark in Mexico, it has no bearing on its ability to sell the iPhone in that country.

Read the rest of iPhone, iFone, and Apple’s Mexican trademark standoff: what’s really going on at The Verge. Hint: nothing important.

Published on under The News

With 100 million first-grade-aged children worldwide having no access to schooling, the One Laptop Per Child organization is trying something new in two remote Ethiopian villages—simply dropping off tablet computers with preloaded programs and seeing what happens.

The goal: to see if illiterate kids with no previous exposure to written words can learn how to read all by themselves, by experimenting with the tablet and its preloaded alphabet-training games, e-books, movies, cartoons, paintings, and other programs.

That’s kind of a sobering thought. For a sense of scale, there are about 40 million kids in Grades K-8 in America. Let’s just go with about 5 million first graders in America. There are 20 times that many first graders without access to schooling around the world. Just in first grade! But there are good people trying to help these kids learn outside the classroom. The MIT Technology Review has a piece reprinted at about what happened when these kids got their hands on these tablets:

Earlier this year, OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets, taped shut, with no instruction. “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”

That’s kind of adorable. The whole thing is tugging at my nerdstrings as hard as it possibly can.

Published on under The Digital Age