Is OpenTrons the Makerbot of biotech? In some ways.

OTWhen I was a molecular biologist, folks used to ask me what I did. I used to say, “Squirt things into tubes and wait.” OpenTrons takes that drudgery out of liquid handling for the usual molecular biology techniques (and would have saved me the last 20+years of tennis elbow).

HAXLR8R, a hardware accelerator program, got, rightfully, excited with OpenTrons (see tweet, upper right). OpenTrons is a really nifty $2000 liquid handling robot (accessories are extra), geared towards biotech.

And OpenTrons will do more than just accelerate molecular biology liquid handling steps. Software-controlled, it will also allow scientists to do more and experiment with variations they normally would not have done manually. That’s really helpful, if you’ve ever had to constrain your experiment due to manual processes.

If I had the money, I’d buy one in a heartbeat. I can think of a ton of experiments I’d do if one of these were in my house.

Makerbot?
At one level, I don’t want to be a spoilsport with this exciting crowd-funded liquid handling robot. But at the same time, I do want to add some perspective that perhaps those who are not in the field might not have.

I can see why folks looking at OpenTrons might think Makerbot – the software-controlled motion of the pipette, dropping things in precise places, moving things around.

But when you are done with all the to-and-fro, Makerbot leaves you with a finished product. In contrast, with OpenTrons, there are many other steps after all the liquid handling before you get to any finished product in molecular biology, for example, transforming bacteria, plating, and so forth – yet more manual steps.

Robots rule
Yes, parts of the molecular biology workflow can be robotized. But right now, OpenTrons only does one part. To give you an idea, there are colony picking robots and plasmid construct building robots (which you could potentially turn OpenTrons into), but there are still many other steps that I have no idea if they’ve been automated or can be.

To me, with things like OpenPCR and OpenTrons changing the cost and construction of molecular biology machinery, the hardware and automation will become more accessible, not only to users, but to tinkerers who will string them together in more interesting ways.

So, while OpenTrons is not Makerbot in terms of finished product, it is a kissing cousin in terms of making more accessible what was once expensive and complex machinery.

And for that, HAXLR8R is rightfully excited in the Markerbot comparison.

Now go pledge to OpenTrons at Kickstarter. Closes November 30th, 2014.

 

I think it’s dead, Jim: When large companies kill small ones

I can think of many reasons a large company might buy a smaller one, only to kill them. For example:

  • Perhaps it was a smaller competitor causing the larger company a headache
  • Perhaps the smaller had created something that the larger was struggling to build but was failing and needed more time
  • Perhaps the larger wanted to hire a particular person in the smaller
  • Perhaps the larger was genuinely interested (at least a team at the larger was) and, after acquisition, the larger just couldn’t be bothered.

Bring out your dead
Indeed, I’ve seen permutations of all of these. Here are some that stick out:

Twango – In 2006, Nokia wanted to be a media company. While it had the time and chops to create a photo service of their own (and the opportunity to bet on Flickr), they spent many months wooing an obscure Seattle-based photo sharing company. When the service was finally purchased, Nokia’s touch of death* worked as the service never really was updated or properly integrated into the Nokia portfolio, and, things were so exciting, I don’t recall any of the original employees sticking around past 6 months. The service languished in neglect for a long time before it was finally shot.

Dopplr and Plazes – Two well-loved darlings of the digerati. Plazes might have been an acquisition to get good mappers in Berlin, where the city, due to the acquisition of Gate5 (which I think also had connections to Plazes), was becoming (and still is) the heart of Nokia location services. Dopplr, for me, was an acquisition to hire one of the co-founders. The value of the service and other employees and founders were incidental, I feel, and relocated to Berlin and disappeared. Both services had a modest, but influential and engaged user base. They were leaders in how location and social networking could be. But neither was updated after acquisition and soon were both closed down.

Jaiku – OK, so I’m not pooping on Nokia here. Jaiku (which Nokia indeed turned down) was quite disruptive with their Twitter competitor. It could have been a contender. And Google must have seen that. But Google did nothing with it, didn’t integrate it into anything, and let it die of neglect. It could be they wanted the co-founders. But it wasn’t clear that, once at Google, they were able to make an impact. Of course, neither are at Google any more.

OK, so these four were ones that I knew the co-founders. The next one, and the main reason for this rant, I wish I could ask what the founders were thinking.

Oh, the places you’ll go!
Moves – Moves is hands-down the best tracking app I have used. It quietly watches your GPS tack and gives you a nice view of where you’ve been, let’s you name things, and provides some basic stats. The key to me was the constant GPS tracking, so I don’t have to think. I browse the data often, reviewing the history of what I’ve done, trails I’ve walked, and streets I’ve run. And it knows when I’m biking, cycling, walking, or in a vehicle. There is nothing out there like it.

Sure, it’s had its hiccups as Apple tweaks iOS, M7 came online, and so forth.

Earlier this year, for some reason, it was acquired by Facebook. I have no idea why. The thought is that Facebook wants to get into trackers (who doesn’t?) and this was a good way in.

BUT, there has been no integration into Facebook properties (except the privacy policy), there has been no mention or promotion of it since, and WORSE there have been no updates.

Painfully, the app is failing more often since iOS8 came out. All the support lines are dead, even the founders don’t respond over Twitter.

I think it’s dead, Jim.

What’s a boy to do?
I’ve been trying to find a replacement for Moves, shook my fist at the big “f” mutely staring at me, tried different channels to find a human behind the app.

No luck.

Yet again, larger buys smaller and kills it.

And they don’t give a hoot about us.

True, not all acquisitions are so wasteful, but it sure hurts when it’s a favorite.
*OK, so I have no idea how Nokia found Twango. It really wasn’t a good service (I never used it beyond for work). Nokia could have done better. So perhaps that contributed to it’s decline. Nonehteless, Nokia seemed to have a touch of death with their acquisitions. I can’t recall many successful acquisitions during this period except NavTeq, an acquisition that ended saving the company, though not the mobile part. And NavTeq probably survived because they were independent for so long.

Spam robot cut-up fiction

cut-up flowerIn one of my meanders through the web this weekend, I was reading about Jack Kerouac, which led to William S Burroughs, which led to Burroughs’ cut-up technique.

Cut-up is when the author takes existing text, cuts it into pieces of words or stretches, and rearranges them into a new piece. It’s like sampling, but with words.

Sure, we do cut-up all the time online, and isn’t plagiarism a sort of non-credited cut-up? But I think the point is that the pieces, the seams, are visible, the cut-up technique, explicit, is what gives the energy and expectation of the new mix.

I’ve been thinking how such technique could exist online. [If there are any web geniuses out there who want to play with this with me, I have some ideas.]

Art in spam
I’ve always been fascinated by some spam that use clever text to mask their nefarious origins. Indeed, at one point, I was collecting from: names that combined interesting words into interesting fictitious names.

Below, though, is one that came in today, which, in my cut-up-alert state, stood out as a great example of random cut-up of online text. I’ve looked for the sources of some of the sentences (with typos), to give the idea of the extent of the cut-up (revealed with a strict Google search). In some cases, the specific text suggests a pedigree of cut-up across the web. Cool.

I do suppose I’m opening myself up to more spam, as I wonder if the specificity of this email is encoded in the arrangement of the sentences. Interesting, though.

October 28, 2014
Issue #325

God in love, and considered the the Holy Spirit as the center of contemplation.She spends a lot of time with her but she fails in coming closer to Sunny.EDT, in which a group of nude women talked and posed in a sexually suggestive manner. The board of trustees is a quintessential aspect of this theatre. Jim’s and Pam’s daughter CC. TV stations across the United States. The Ministry ended a period of political instability, when Britain had struggled in the war. Assigned divisions can be put by someone else that knows where they are assigned. The flight was launched on July 26, 2005, and returned on August 9, 2005. Mutational analysis of the ST7 gene in human myeloid tumor cell lines. CEDA formulates the annual intercollegiate policy debate topic used in tournament competition throughout the nation. Kartik is once again given a task by the Rakshana. Accumulation of premutagenic DNA lesions in mice defective in removal of oxidative base damage. It can simulate accidental or continuous releases from stationary or mobile point sources. During her childhood she sometimes showed a silent, childish religiousness. Museum for the Macedonian Struggle collection items 1. Humor Comic Strip Award for the strip in 1974. Its subjects range over a wide period of time and include all sports. Timo Sarpaneva narrated his family heritage as that of craftsmen. Ingushetia in February 2005. Photo taken from Hotbank Crags. Model of historical imperial palace in Edo white. Quality can vary widely, depending on a number of factors. His time with the doctor cemented his decision to leave soccer and pursue medicine full time. Each CFR event is contested over five days, featuring six rounds. Just below it on the roughly 200 metres contour shelf lies the Harvelin Park housing estate.CU Places West Campus Irving Cut 2. Some of them slowly integrated into colonial society. In the northeast parlor, the tripartite window is similarly recessed and flanked by pilasters. Cortijo Y Su Combo recording of the song Saoco. Streetjazz Festival is one of the largest amateur music festivals in Japan. Coauthor Claire Martin composed the music for this play. This vast sector encompassing approximately 7,300 businesses and employ more than 145,000 people. He soon became besotted with her, and ignored Chrissie’s repeated attempts to rebuke him. Group B and the losers of heats in Group A were seeded. I hear a whispering that they can find no presumptions of evil. He ends up telling his ex wife he loves her, but is ultimately killed by the witch doctor. For each of these products, a national sales department was formed with regional offices established in strategic locations. Fallon will go first, informing his men of each move. Art International, Switzerland, Vol XLI, May 1988, pp. The gang prepares for the annual art contest. She was an actress and voice actor between 1938 and 1962. Cuneo was buried in the St. Commissioned officers are typically assigned as leaders in a given field with a general title such as infantry officer.Every thought, feeling, perception, or memory you may have causes a modification, or ripple, in the mind. By order of President Lyndon Johnson, dependents of U. Still others were tradesmen making deliveries of merchandise. The completed DRF always includes the 3 components of DRF. This includes four that have seating capacity of 254 students. West Pakistani army units were concentrated. After talking Reggie out of killing herself, George admits that Rube was right all along. The young disciple of Puti Laozu. Thompson’s funeral was held in the same parish on 13 December 1634. South Africa, a first for a South African wrestling promotion since the 1980s wrestling boom. Justice administrators, will contact the target’s family, friends, neighbors, and employer to alert them to the website posting. Dic had 23 tackles, 3. Although the feathers are black, the scapular feathers produce a purple iridescence when they reflect sunlight. Rounded surfaces will often have some portion of the surface normal to the Radar source.The decree stated that the territory of Tlaxcala and the Federal District would become a part of the Department of Mexico. No freighter version of this model was developed by Boeing. Midway on 28 February. Japan by telling them that the proper procedures are being undertaken. The original staff consisted of seven data collectors. The C code is compiled into a shared object that will be used by the Verilog simulator. Stepdance judges prefer sliding motions with the feet and graceful movements that seem to slip across the floor. Arthur Andersen states that it destroyed Enron documents. The music video was directed by Jon Small and premiered in early 1993. References to the game date back as far as the 17th century, and it was quite popular at the start of the 20th century. Refurbished by LH Services at Barton under Needwood, England, and returned to Adelaide Yard on 14 December 2008. However, the Canadian climate needs to be taken into account for every structure. Poor People’s Radio, Inc. Jennifer that she has been drafted into the organization as a result of her registration.Ukraine and other republics dramatically declined. There were 347 housing units at an average density of 143. Ayala was shot dead trying to escape, shortly before evidence emerged that belatedly proved his innocence. The image on the cover is significant because it parodies a famous landmark. Wisconsin Family Action, July 23, 2009. He gave concerts in the U. Dugdale Society Occasional Papers, no. Lanois destroyed a dobro in a fit of rage. Clarke, Charles and Mary Clarke. All applicants are asked to answer a series of questions pertaining to their health. The CHILDES database includes a rich variety of computerized transcripts from language learners. Bud involves Lou in an experiment of a mad scientist who convinces Lou that he is indestructible. Mir Docking Cone Placement and Module Movements. However, this one has taken to Edie and continually follows her around.Both of the images clearly mention that they were made in 2009. Two shadow creatures that bicker constantly. So I played for John Philip Shenale, talked him through my vision, and he really got it. Some households in rural or suburban parts of the UK can opt for a wind turbine with inverter to supplement local grid power. I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. The Problem with Villains which debuted at the 2009 Scream Literary Festival’s comics and graphic novels event. Leo Radeljak was charged with involuntary manslaughter, but during the trial he was acquitted of all charges. So Ami is obsessed in cleaning their trailer. Tatsuo is employed at a bank. The discal spot is minute and white. The stone is now in the Carlisle Museum. Its name commemorates Dr. Added See Also wikis. A prince and his wife defect after communists try to force him to denounce the West in a speech. April 9, 1928, at the age of 92. Sky EPG slot bought by Sony Entertainment Television. In April 1997, Abco purchased Venus II’s patent along with all manufacturing and marketing rights. Lang on the cover. Of Britannia and close friend of Nikolai Dante. Gaming Club devoted to the CM series. There are 7 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in Belarus. Only matches listed as full internationals by FIFA are included. Females are dark brown, also with the black and white borders. Construction, which was planned to take14 years, started on 14 October 1967. Tuesday, 21 April 1936. The decree stated that the territory of Tlaxcala and the Federal District would become a part of the Department of Mexico. As it was Australia made 293, setting England 356 to win in just over four hours. All the rebels were killed. It uses light and heavy machineguns, assault rifles, mortars, explosives, and rockets. SCHIP much farther than its original intent. Steaua with a perfect header inside the box. Left Shence Army, holding Li Xun’s head high in front of the procession, escorted Wang Ya, Wang Fan, Luo, and Guo Xingyu. And what we believe consciously is in large part driven by these unconscious beliefs. A busy attorney might take 50 to 100 cases a year. As king, he planned to liquidate his relatives who were acting as pretenders of his throne.

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[Update: And 30 minutes later, I received another with a totally different set of sentences.]

Image by Roxanna Salceda

Ebola exposes chinks in our techno-optimistic armor

Ebola_virionsIf you’re a bio-nerd like me, you’ve known about Ebola for a very long time. You knew it was trouble from the get-go and wondered how it would unfold should it get widespread.

Well, now we know.

But as things have unfolded, I see three things that I feel expose our techno-optimism for what it is: talk.

Instant vaccines
A few years ago, there were serious concerns about swine and avian flus going nuts on the scale of the 1918 man vs virus massacre. Synthetic biology was having a hey-day as, my anti-hero, Craig Venter, and his team, created life forms and turned genes into Legos.

One of the promises of synthetic biology was the rapid production of vaccines. Venter joined forces with vaccine juggernaut, Novartis, to accelerate the production of new vaccines. The hope was that, as diseases emerged, we could build vaccines in a week to save us from pandemics. And, since this was the rosy future, we would email the code anywhere, to bioreplicators, to get the vaccine where it needed to be.

OK. So we’re months into the whole Ebola epidemic (or at least, months since everyone outside of Africa started freaking out about it). In the same vein as “It’s the future, where’s my jet pack?”, I say: “It’s the synthetic biology future, where’s my personalized vaccine?” I’ll be kinder: “Where’s the instant Ebola vaccine?”

Yup. We still have a way to go. We’ll have to pass on this epidemic, and do it the old skool way.

Basic(s of) public health
Thankfully, folks my age and younger don’t have first hand knowledge of the viral scourges of yesteryear (which, I feel, were really just before I was born in the 60s). But viruses have a way to remind us that we’re slacking on basic vaccination: measles and whooping cough, for example, are making a come-back, once more. This should not be happening in 2014.

Also, we’d like to think that we’re more aware of viral infections: awareness in day care, awareness at home and in the streets, and awareness in the hospital. Heck, at a minimum, you’d think that hospitals don’t need to have some gruesome virus waved in front of their face to initiate proper infectious disease protocols. You’d think such habits were ingrained anyway, since hospitals are trying to control all sorts of hospital acquired bacterial infections (practically the only bacterial infections that still kill).

For example, swine and avian flu were doing a brisk business in the previous decade, and there was a concerted public health effort to nip the seasonal swells in the bud. Indeed, I remember working at Children’s Boston where they restricted access to patients, made all employees get vaccinated, installed hand sanitizers everywhere, and upped awareness of symptoms and potential outcomes.

The annoying thing is that some people complained after that there was no outbreak. Of course, stupid, because we took precautions and instituted good infectious disease protocols.

So, what the heck happened with Ebola here in the US? My understanding is that part of the reason it’s on a rampage in Africa is precisely due to poor public health infrastructure (in the hospitals) and understanding (with the public).

I will have to think the best, that Texas Presbyterian has had top notch infectious disease protocols in place and that the two nurses who were infected were due to the amazing ability of the virus to circumvent such protections and protocol.

I have to.

But then why do I keep hearing stories of staff going on plane and boat trips?

True, it shouldn’t be an issue if there were good protocols in place and the infection was contained. But if one patient caused two more infections in caregivers, might all staff members be a bit concerned?

Bio-errorism
Which leads me to the third case where Ebola makes us look silly.

The concern has spread to panic. A Maine teacher who visited Dallas was (sort-of) quarantined and banned from going back to her school. A man in the UK pulled his daughter out of school because she wasn’t allowed to wear a face mask. And now, the uninformed are calling for a travel ban.

For the past 10+ years, the US has been able to maintain a constant list of fears rotating through everyone’s minds. And the government has been well oiled to use all these fears to pump money into think tanks and contractors to develop systems to counter the sum of all our fears.

Bio-terrorism is one of these fears. I can’t help to think of the billions poured into research and plans to prepare for a bio-terrorism event. For example, what if someone were to infect someone with Ebola?

So where is all this bio-terrorism preparation in these Ebola days? From what I can tell, while the CDC has been great, I don’t see any mobilization on the part of the bio-terrorism folks. OK, so this is not a bio-terrorist attack, but, really, all the protocols, actions, and preparation should be as applicable to this Ebola event as if it were from some malicious element. The virus really doesn’t care who set it off.

But I can be OK with that.

The part though that I can say all the bio-terrorism effort has not helped is in educating the public what to do. Which ties back to the panic. Many folks have no idea how Ebola spreads.

And Ebola might be the best thing to happen to all the politicians and their asinine campaigns during these mid-term elections. Folks are so worried about Ebola (or at least it seems from the news) that no one will turn out to vote – partly because they usually don’t care, but now because there’s a menace out there.

As this great Forbes article on travel ban modeling says:

Calls for a travel ban illustrate that there’s yet another battle to be won over Ebola: explaining how the disease spreads between populations.

The humble virus this way comes
We think we’re so smart we can whip up vaccines and send them over the internet to save the masses. We think we’re the acme of our civilization with clean streets, advanced medicine, and disease-free living. We think we’ve thought of every scenario that could haunt our nightmares and have spent billions in materials and minds to prepare us.

And then seven genes, encoded in RNA, wrapped in a protein package of less than a micron, decides to take advantage of humans and go about its business of replicating, to remind us: eh, things aren’t as advanced as we think they are.

Life is still a battle and we need to tone down the techno-optimism and tone up the grunt work to save thousands of lives.

 

Ebola family photo via Wikimedia

 

Cow, goat, sheep, alpaca, camel, or buffalo? Which milk do you like?

yogurtshelf

I thoroughly enjoy making yogurt. But, of course, most yogurt is made of cow’s milk.

I was able to find some goat and sheep milk yogurts in my local store. They were good. Interestingly, the sheep milk yogurt had the stronger flavour, which made it better to cook with than to have cereal or fruits with. And, of note, both yogurts had the same consistency as cow milk yogurt due to fancy thickeners and food production techniques of commercial products.

I also was able to find goat milk in my local store, with which I made a batch of yogurt. The consistency was different from my cow milk home-made yogurt, a bit more runny, but more cohesive. Though I think this is partly due to my production technique, which I have since improved.

In my past few batches of cow milk yogurt, I’ve improved my temperature control and have been getting a consistent product that I like. So now I am bent on doing another batch of goat milk yogurt to see if I can improve the consistency (I’ve been looking for wholesalers nearby). Also, I’ll probably use a starter from goat yogurt, rather than my usual cow milk yogurt starter, in case there are some differences in the strains that produce the better goat yogurt.

There’s more
I’ve also been pondering milk from other animals. For example, I was talking to an alpaca breeder. I got all excited and asked if he had any milk. He laughed and told me that when you try to milk an alpaca, she’s not too happy and actually lays down.

So no milk there.

And today, while reading up on difference between goat and cow milk, I stumbled on a nice article on camel and buffalo milk. Go read the article, as it has a nice cultural discussion of the different milks.

I’ve also reproduced below a really great table she had comparing different milks (no sheep, though).

What different milks have you had?

 

 
Cow
Goat
Buffalo
Camel
Cholesterol
Higher than buffalo or camel milk
Higher than buffalo or camel milk
Lower cholesterol than cow or goat milk
Lower cholesterol than cow or goat milk
Vitamins and minerals
Higher fat and protein than human milk
Low in B6 and B12, higher in calcium than cow milk
Similar to cow’s milk, although higher in calcium
3 times higher in vitamin C than cow’s milk, 10 times higher in iron but less vitamin A and B2
Protein
3.29%
3.56%
4 %
2.2-5%
Cross reactivity of milk protein
Casein antibody cross-reactivity with goat and cow. 2-3% infants allergic to milk proteins.
Similar casein structure to human milk and different from cow. Those allergic to cow milk might also be allergic to goat milk in about 25% of the cases
Some protein antibody cross-reactivity with goat and cow. One case of Buffalo milk tolerance when allergic to cow milk
Little or no cross-reactivity between cow and camel milk proteins. This indicates that those allergic to cow milk can drink camel milk.
Lactose
4.7%
4.1%
4.8%
4.8%
Fat
1-3%
3-6%
7-8 %
3-5%
Fat characteristic
Needs to be homogenized otherwise fat rises to the top, large fat molecules have a tendency to clump
Larger number of small fat molecules than cow milk, Smaller softer curd, no cream formation. Does not contain agglutinin, so the fat molecules do not clump together. Believed to be the reason why it is easier to digest. more essential fatty acids such as linoleic and arachnodonic, and higher medium chain fatty acids
Smaller molecules which don’t clump together like in cow’s milk. Contains lower levels of agglutinin compared to cow’s milk but has similar digestibility.
Does not contain enough agglutinin and therefore fat molecules do not clump together. Size of the fat molecules are similar to cows
Butter, cheese making
Contains agglutinin, fat separates easily, butter made by churning, cheese is made using rennet
Lacks agglutinin, difficult to make butter by churning, many soft goat cheeses are made without rennet
Traditionally used to make mozzarella in Italy, better color and texture, yogurt is thick and creamy
Does not contain sufficient agglutinin for efficient cream separation. Butter is made using a centrifuge. Cheese produced using camel rennet, vegetable rennet has been used with limited success. Easily made into yogurt
Health
Good source of calcium and vitamin D
More easily digested because of smaller fat size and distribution characteristics. It is also alkaline. Better tolerated with those with lactose intolerance.
Low in cholesterol, good source of nutrients such as calcium and other vitamins and minerals
Used to treat type 1 diabetes (contains insulin like molecules), strengthens cellular immune response, high in lactoferrin, which has antimicrobial activity, reduces allergic response in children
Problems
Linked to milk allergies and intolerance ranging from atopic dermatitis, diarrhea, and constipation.
Not appropriate for those who have severe lactose intolerance, although usually tolerated better than cow’s milk
Contains lactose so may be a problem with those suffering with lactose intolerance
Contains lactose so may be a problem with those suffering with lactose intolerance, although better tolerated than cow’s milk
Flavor
 
Flavor can be strong in comparison
Similar to cow milk
Sweeter than other milks

 

A New Kind of Stalking

There wasn’t much to it: be a waiter at a catered government event, or an usher at a Hollywood red carpet gala, or a bouncer at a big music show, and have a pocket full of sterile wipes to surreptitiously swab drinking glasses, surfaces, and hands.

He was surprised he was the only one who actually did this.

And the product possibilities boggled the mind – people would pay for anything, even if they couldn’t see it.

Yet, there must have been pent up demand: his website, which started just as a simple price list, had been found on Day One through a wide range of creative search terms.

Who was he to judge the eccentricities of others? He was just fulfilling a need, though in a nebulous zone of legality thicker than a Victorian London fog. On the other hand, the ethics were quite clear: yeah, quite clearly unethical.

Upon returning home, he’d put the wipes in the freezer to wait until the next morning when he could process them to extract the illicit information using his collection of gizmos purchased on eBay, homemade reagents, and countless tubes, tips, and tricks.

The extracted samples would be shipped off to some no-name cheap sequencing house somewhere in the world only to return as a link to a file on a free online genomics analysis platform.

Then the fun began as he processed and concatenated the correct files to stitch together large stretches of some celebrity’s genome.

He’d often send out the sequences again to some synthesis house so that people could buy tubes of celebrity DNA – they couldn’t even frakkin’ see any of it!

Though he could charge more if he sold a specific gene – for Brad Pitt’s eye color, Jennifer Lawrence’s hair style, Obama’s skin color, or Adam Levine’s vocal cord genes.

No, these folks know nothing of the truth of genetics. Though, if they knew enough to check, it’d be a true related gene or sets of genes.

Then there’s the real money for those who want an organ. Hard to make, but oh so worth the effort. For example, once his Irish friend sent him some DNA from Ozzy Osbourne and paid for a liver. Who knows what he did with it.

The ultimate, though, was the couple who gave him gobs of money for a Jennifer Connelly embryo.

Even he was freaked out when he delivered it to the couple at a fertility clinic. Took him a few months before he resumed his genomic paparazzi activities. But money was so good, the competition non-existent, and the authorities so clueless, why stop?

(sep14)

[Inspired by @onetruecathal]

A Brush with Infinity

While she ascribed her confusion to the speed with which things unfolded, perhaps she really just refused to admit what she experienced.

Granted, part of her reluctance to admit anything was also due to realizing she was incontrovertably idiotic for taking that shortcut down that dark alley.

Yes, a dark alley.

Yes, someone followed her into it.

Yes, he caught up with her, grabbed her bag, knife in hand as they struggled.

Then, THUMP, something, something immense, landed on her assailant. With one long arm the large being – was it wearing overalls? – lifted up her assailant and with its other long arm swung a, a large monkey-wrench?, across her assailant’s jaw, numerous teeth clattering against a nearby brick building wall like so many spat Chiclets. And in one motion the being swept up the assailant’s knife, impaled one of his hands onto the nearest utility pole, turned to her and, before she could react, threw her over its shoulder.

She fell into a face-full of fragrant fur with a hint of denim and light machine oil as the being thump-thump-bump-clanked in a quadruped gallop towards the brightly lit end of the alley.

At the edge of the light it holstered its giant monkey-wrench into a loop in its overalls, and, with both hands, set her down gingerly. She was face to face with it – him – in all his simian largeness.

She most remembers his dark brown eyes, reflecting the safety of the light behind her, as he frowned and nodded a “You should know better,” with a touch of “I might not be there next time,” before spinning her towards the light.

As what transpired began to sink in, she couldn’t help but turn back to watch as he thump-thump-bump-bump galloped away into the darkness of the alley and vanished.

[inspired by Infinity Monkey]

[another IM story of mine in comments of above image]

Changes in Aetna’s online offerings: what the impact?

I find Aetna to be a leader in using online tools to increase member engagement in their health (with the interest to lower costs, of course). One interesting online service they had was CarePass, which, as I recall, was adding features and, I thought, was growing to be central to all of Aetna’s online offerings. I used to use it as a great example of what payers should be doing to become more consumer-centric.

Aetna to shut down CarePass by the end of the year
“One of the primary ways that Aetna is improving health care is through the increased use of innovative technology,” the spokesperson wrote. “We are consistently creating technology-based solutions that make it easier for consumers to navigate the health care system and get the most out of their health benefits. While we are continually developing these solutions, we also need to evaluate our investments to ensure that we are providing the most value to our members.”

While it’s always sad to see the demise of an interesting attempt at an online mobile health service, it’s important to be able to iterate and experiment to truly find what folks want. And they are not getting rid of iTriage. They purchased iTriage a few years ago. I think CarePass was growing from within Aetna.

With the closing of CarePass, what happens to the data and users? What’s the impact on the pioneering users, too? And is Aetna the right place to iterate and experiment? Does closing CarePass dampen the futures of other similar online services?

What do you think?

 

Siri and my car: When a new tech highlights limitation of old tech

icon_siriI’ve had a iPhone for a few years now and am definitely a heavy Siri user. I’ve learned her way, how to speak with her, and get her to do the things I need her to do (for the most part – I still can’t seem to get her to schedule anything in my calendar).

I also use Siri when I can’t access the phone, such as when running or when driving.

When I’m running, I have the Apple headset and Siri works perhaps even better than without a headset.

But when I’m the car, Siri can be quite frustrating. Y’see, the microphone in the car was never designed for voice recognition.

Unless you played with editing audio or perhaps were into computer telephony, you might not realize that not all audio channels are the same. Or perhaps you  have – the degraded sound quality on radio talk shows is due to the telephone not delivering a broad enough bandwidth to deliver good sound. Indeed, the standard phone system was designed to carry the minimum amount of sound to be intelligible.

When Skype came out, folks were shocked at the sound quality – Skype was sending the maximum bandwidth to provide the best sound possible.

Back to my car
My car microphone seems to also be designed to provide the minimum bandwidth necessary for a phone call. It doesn’t try to be the best microphone because the phone system has such narrow bandwidth. Hence, when I use it, it’s quite difficult for Siri to understand me.

So my suggestion to car manufacturers: Siri (and Google Now and Cortana) need excellent sound input to optimally work. DON’T SKIMP ON CAR MICROPHONES!

Any body else want to weigh in?

Posting mobile photos like it’s 2005

I haven’t looked at my Lifeblog archive in a long time. Without the software, it’s just a deep tree of folders holding all sorts of media over many years.

For some reason, last night, I took a peek, flipping through old photos and text messages from another time. Sigh, that Nokia is no more.

But I found some screen shots (with a date and URL) of how we would post from Lifeblog.

Blogging from my phone
I don’t want to go into the interesting origin story of Lifeblog and my brief time with it, but, as the name suggests, blogging was a key feature. And not just any blogging, blogging from the phone.

Before Lifeblog, there were some hacks to get photos online. But with Lifeblog, or so it became, it was easy to compose a photo-centric post from your phone (thanks to the genius of the engineers on our team and at Six Apart). The Six Apart folks even made cool templates to showcase the photo posts.

Screen shots!

And in case you’re wondering, here’s what’s left of the post, the template long lost after many digital migrations.

A trip to the archives
These images were used to teach folks how to post. And there was also a post to teach folks how to put their settings in. How quaint!

What a time! As a team, we were breaking all sorts of ground. It was the closest I got to start-up mentality at Nokia.

Alas, Lifeblog never reached it’s potential, never got fully baked, faded away in neglect.

And folks like Apple and Instagram made it all look new again.

[Now back to my therapist after opening up these and a ton of related old cobwebbed memories I should know better than to disturb.]

Image from the launch website (found in this post of mine)