Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Web Secret 589: Diagnosis

Way back in 2010, I wrote a post Web Secret #129: Crowd Accelerated Innovation describing the new concept that human beings across the world could access the same video resulting in rapid innovation.

This was right before Apple released FaceTime in the App store.

It is now almost 10 years later, and what we hoped would happen then is in full flower today.

No series best showcases the promise of the crowd than Netflix' Diagnosis.

The premise of the show is that Dr. Lisa Sanders finds medical cases that stump professionals. She then creates a video broadcast that describes the patient's medical problems and makes all performed tests, labs, etc. available to the world. Viewers have up to two months to respond.

And the world answers, solving the mystery, and providing the patients with a diagnosis, a treatment path, and support from the medical community and beyond.

It's exhilarating, inspirational.

And depressing.

Many of the patients featured in the series are bankrupt because of their medical bills. One of the arguments made for not offering universal coverage in the US is that we have to pay to provide the best medical care in the world.

That is not true - if it ever was.

One patient's problems are solved by a revolutionary lab in Italy. Cost to the patient: zero. Everyone in Italy gets free health care.

Here is another sad fact: a third of Gulf War Veterans suffer from Gulf War Syndrome - that's 100,000 people - caused by exposure to Sarin, a lethal chemical, and other poisonous substances. Decades after their service, veterans experience the horrific fallout of that conflict.

While I was watching the series, I came across a video on YouTube that consists of a graphic showing the countries who who had the greatest military expenditures from 1914 to 2018. In 1914 the country in first place is Germany and the US is in 6th place. By 1918, the US moves into first place, and for the rest of the 20th century we stay in the top three (except for a brief time, pre-World War II.) Starting in the 1990s we remain in first place, spending more money on our military than the rest of the top 15 countries put together.



Can you imagine if we put some of that money to provide universal health care and job skills for the millions of people we imprisoned for minor drug possession charges and other non-violent crimes?

Imagine.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Web Secret 588: Google Secrets

When I was a very young adult, I spent 6 months working as a researcher at a now defunct company aptly named Find. Find's clients were corporations whose minions could call and ask "What is the market for bubblegum?", or "How does the Palomar Observatory clean it's telescope?"

I answered many questions. Since this was eons before the Internet, this meant I ran around New York City's many public libraries with a bag of nickels to make photocopies. I looked at microfiches by the hundreds. I read directories and books. I found out who the experts were, looked their phone numbers up in the Yellow Pages and called them.

By the end of my stint at Find, I was a crack researcher. Once the Internet was invented, my skills easily translated into being able to science the shit out of pretty much anything.

But most people I encounter in day to day life, not so much.

So I came across a useful article on how to effectively use Google, which I have summarized for you:

1. Use quotation marks to find a specific phrase. When you put quotation marks around a collection of words, it tells Google to look for the words only in that order. As an example, I knew that "science the shit" is an expression that was used in "The Martian" novel and movie, and I used that technique to get the clip that I linked to in this post.

2. Use the minus sign. As an example, a search for for "wedding bands" brings up a ton of results, for both wedding rings and musicians that play at wedding receptions. Think of a word that would appear on all the irrelevant pages — in this case, “jewelry” or “jeweler” — and include it with a minus sign in your search: wedding bands -jewelry. Just like that, you’ve got yourself a bunch of sites that review wedding bands across the country.

3. Narrow your search to a specific time period. You can put a date restriction on search results by clicking the "Tools" button under Google’s search bar, and then clicking the “Any Time” drop-down. You can narrow your results to the previous week, month, year, or a custom time frame.

4. Find the source of a photo with reverse image search. Not all searches are made up of words. Sometimes, it can be handy to know where a certain photo came from, or to find a larger version of it. You probably know you can type a few words to find a photo with Google’s Image Search, but you might not have realized it works in the other direction too: Drag an image into Image Search and Google will find other versions of that photo for you.

Start searching

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Web Secret 587: Seek

Recently, I was on a hike in Santa Fe, NM with one of my Millenial children, enjoying the clean air and admiring the various exotic plants and animals native to that area.

Suddenly I exclaimed, "Wow, look at that hummingbird!" noticing a creature batting its wings so rapidly that its movements were a blur. My son answered "I don't think that's a bird..."

And then he did something I had only previously seen in "Star Trek" episodes - he whipped out his tricorder, er, I mean iPhone, waved it in front of the animal for a few seconds, and then announced "This is a Hyles lineata, also known as the hummingbird moth, because of their bird-like size (2-3 inch wingspan) and flight patterns."

My son explained, "It's an app called Seek."

Call me amazed.

Seek was developed by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. It uses the power of image recognition technology to identify plants and animals around the world.

Who knew we had such mind blowing scientific capabilities!

I immediately downloaded the, (by the way FREE,) app and started roaming around scanning and identifying everything in sight.

Interested in having your children use their smartphones for something positive and educational? This one's for you.

This one's for everyone.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Web Secret 586: iPhone shortcuts

Sooner or later I know that I will have to use voice commands, I've just been procrastinating as long s possible

But this article "How to Tap Less on your Phone" made me think that now is the time for you and I to learn how to use Siri.

Here are some key tips from the article:

1. You can ask Siri to “Turn on the flashlight.” Well that's super useful!

2. You can say, “Do not disturb” as you enter a movie theater, a meeting or your bed.

3. Squeeze for silence. When your phone rings at a bad moment — at a movie, for example — don’t pull it out and fumble for the Ignore button. Instead, just reach into your pocket or purse and squeeze the phone. Pressing any button on the edge of the phone means “Silence the ringing,” — and when you grasp the phone this way, you’ll hit one of those buttons in a hurry.

That's enough new stuff for now.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Web Secret 585: In praise of old things

The other day, I did something retro.

I went to a performance of "Sleeping Beauty" given by the American Ballet Theater at the Metropolitan Opera house.

It could have been 1890 when the ballet was first performed:

Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky's gorgeous score.

Dancers performing the beautiful choreography of Marius Petipa.

I sat in delight for three hours - without technology.

I did note that the 21st century had brought about three welcome changes:

1. Diversity among the dancers: African American, Latino, Asian and from all over the world.
2. Diversity among the audience, also representing multiple ethnic groups from all over the world.
3. During the curtain calls, hundreds of people took photographs with their smart phones.

Every now and then, go retro.

I recommend it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Web Secret 584: Raising Phone-Free Children

I frequently deliver a talk at EAP related conferences entitled: "Moving Towards EAP 2.0," or words to that effect. In this presentation, I discuss 21st century opportunities for EA professionals and mental health clinicians.

Everyone on the planet who is connected to the Internet is struggling to manage their screen time and/or the screen time of their children.
1. EAPs have the opportunity to develop lunch and learn presentations that teach employees how to limit their off duty screen time.
2. Individual counselors can also develop this expertise to help their clients of all ages.

Lo and behold I came across an article "Now Some Families Are Hiring Coaches to Help Them Raise Phone-Free Children."

Here are the key points from that article:

Parents around the country, alarmed by the steady patter of studies around screen time, are trying to turn back time to the era before smartphones. But it’s not easy to remember what exactly things were like before smartphones. So they’re hiring professionals.

A new screen-free parenting coach economy has sprung up to serve the demand. Screen consultants come into homes, schools, churches and synagogues to remind parents how people parented before.

Among affluent parents, fear of phones is rampant, and it’s easy to see why. No one knows what screens will make of society, good or bad. This worldwide experiment of giving everyone an exciting piece of hand-held technology is still new.

Gloria DeGaetano was a private coach working to wean families off screens when she noticed the demand was higher than she could handle on her own. She launched the Parent Coaching Institute, a network of 500 coaches and a training program. Her coaches in small cities and rural areas charge $80 an hour. In larger cities, rates range from $125 to $250. Parents typically sign up for eight to 12 sessions. (!!!)

A parent coach noticed most adults have gotten so used to entertaining themselves with phones, they forgot that they actually grew up without them. Clients were coming to her confused about what to do all afternoon with their kids to replace tablets. She has her clients do a remembering exercise.

“And it’s so hard, and they’re very uncomfortable, but they just need to remember.”

A movement is bubbling up across the country. A group of parents band together and make public promises to withhold smartphones from their children until eighth grade. Parents who make these pledges work to promote the idea of healthy adult phone use, and promise complete abstinence until eighth grade or even later. (I am not a fan of that one size fits all approach - phones also provide security and other beneficial services.)

One psychologist noted:“We want answers served up to us — ‘Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.’”

But what seems self-evident can be hard to remember, and hard to stick with. One parent noted, “When we were growing up, we didn’t have these [devices], so our parents couldn’t role model appropriate behaviors to us, and we have to learn what is appropriate so we can role model that for them.”

We are inventing the wheel for a new machine that is constantly being upgraded. No wonder these parents are so anxious.

But for EAPs and clinicians - helping people develop a measured approach to new technology - can be part of your book of business.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Web Secret 583: It's the teacher

For two middle school years, I attended Maret, a K-12 private school in Washington DC. The music teacher there was a man named Dexter Davidson. He seemed to be quite elderly to me at the time, but in retrospect was probably in his late 50s.

Each year, all the music classes learned the score for an ambitious musical offering in which everyone participated in some measure.

As an example, when I was in 9th grade, the plan was to put on the Mikado, a satiric 19th century operetta composed by Gilbert and Sullivan. For those of you who don't know their many compositions, treat yourself by watching them on YouTube. Here for example, is an Australian company's version of "I've got a little list." By tradition, the words to the song are updated to reflect contemporary aggravations:


Music classes were spent sitting at a desk with the score, singing the songs together. All the songs. The solos, the duets, the trios, the chorus numbers and the finale - we learned every note. Since Gilbert and Sullivan works have catchy melodies and hilarious lyrics, we loved every minute of it. Towards the end of the school year, everyone had memorized the entire Mikado.

Then came the time to put on a show. The principal roles were cast by audition and usually featured high schoolers - but anyone who wanted to, regardless of musical aptitude, was on stage. Mr. Davidson believed everyone, regardless of age or talent, could learn the choreography of each number.

At the time, it was all so much fun. But today, I realize how progressive and brave he was. Being allowed to play the opposite sex, being included in any show in which you wanted to perform, being able to learn an ambitious musical work regardless of age. He brought the entire school together, making everyone feel appreciated and included. Making us think that we could tackle any project, regardless of who we were.

Mr. Davidson, you were an exceptional teacher. Because I was taught by you, my entire life is better.

Thank you.