On the Road Again

After a summer travel hiatus to work on research projects, I’m back on the road again this week.

Today, I’m chairing a break-out panel at Mayo Transform 2011 to talk about the power and opportunities in sharing health data across organizational and discipline boundaries.  Tomorrow I’m participating in a break-out discussion featuring Hugh Dubberly on self-tracking and visualization, also at Transform.  Check out the alternative announcmeent on the fantastic new Lybba.org website and blog.

On Thursday I’m participating on a panel about Innovation Scaning sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Health 2.0 team in DC.  

It feels great to exchange ideas in real-time with my collaborators the larger health innovation community again.  As always, Transform is off to a great start!

OS X Lion?

Mac OS X updates often contain controversial features that lead people to wonder whether they should upgrade.  My short answer is there is no need to rush into Lion.  The only feature that I think is a real step forward is the new facilities for search in Mac Mail and increased support for cool gestures.  Even if those sound appealing, wait a couple of incremental releases for some of the various quirks to subside and more apps to integrate with the Lion look and feel changes.

  • Gestures.  Very nice, smooth, worthwhile.
  • Content scrolling.  Annoying, go to the Properties and disable for normal up/down two-finger scrolling
  • Look and Feel. Animations make the system feel slower.  Generally feels a little awkward to me.  I suspect you’ll be able to turn off animation in a future release.
  • Mission Control.  Expose + Spaces might have been harder for basic users, but mission control is a step backward for power users.  If you use those features heavily, you may want to hold off for awhile.  I’m disappointed by Mission control on multiple monitors.  It’s also feels slower than the old Spaces + Expose.  May be due to the animation issues.
  • New Mail widescreen layout and search functionality.  Search is great.  Almost worth the upgrade by itself.  New layout is nice when on small screens.
  • Safari 5 + Lion.  Faster!  Zippier!  Could just be the new js and rendering suppport, but feels good.  Sometimes the sandboxed renderer eats up CPU cycles and memory and there is no way to tell what tab is responsible.  Just force kill the Safari content process.
  • Fullscreen apps.  Meh.  Ok for mobile use and interacts cleanly with Mission Control.
  • Rosetta (Power PC binary support) is deprecated.  Beware of older programs; some programs may still be using Rosetta under the hood and negatively surprise you.

That’s it.  Of the hundreds of features they tout, those are the only ones that really pop out for me.  Generally the overall feel of the system remains inferior after several weeks of use.  

    Exercising Self-Control and Getting-Focused

    During the work day, interrupts from e-mail or social media can lead me to compose e-mails or get sidetracked, 20 web searches away, hot on the hunt for answers to interesting questions raised by the latest forwarded content.  Today I discovered a useful, free application called SelfControl (http://visitsteve.com/made/selfcontrol/) that blocks your computer from accessing certain domains such as Facebook.com, Twitter.com, or incoming mail servers.  It blocks these connections for a fixed period of time and it is nearly impossible to disable once you’ve started the clock.  It is just as if I were going into a meeting where I wouldn’t normally be checking my e-mail, but this meeting is with my own mental creativity team.

    RescueTime has a similar feature called “Get Focused” which uses their database of distraction ratings to turn off all sites you have labeled as Very Distracting.  Unfortunately, there isn’t yet a way to add your e-mail to this service so SelfControl provides a useful extra bit of filtering.

    (It’s really too bad this doesn’t apply to my spare computer, my iphone, ipad or my wife’s computer…but technology only takes us so far in supporting behavior change)

    Holy Radioactive Bananas!

    I was reminded today by my social media brethren (thanks Jesse) that bananas are radioactive. They contain roughly 450mg of potassium and the isotope K-40 has a natural abundance of 0.01% which translates to 0.01 millrems per day. The radiation is split between 80% beta decay, 10% electron capture and 10% gamma rays.

    Perhaps this explains my wife’s strong aversion to bananas? Continue reading “Holy Radioactive Bananas!”

    Using 100% of your brain

    The new movie Limitless is based on the premise that a drug can enable us to use “100% of our brains” because according to common wisdom, we currently only use 10%. This claim has been used in innumerable science fiction settings to provide a hypothetical source of magical cognitive abilities from super-intelligence to extra-sensory perception and is one of the most ill-informed and silly pretexts I’ve seen.  Of course, this realization is not new but I felt like writing a short rant.

    Continue reading “Using 100% of your brain”