tech


My husband, the Early-Adopter-Apple-enthusiast, has been drooling over an iPhone ever since word spread about its development several years ago. However, we live in a large city in a small state where Verizon rules and AT&T has little or no presence. It didn’t make sense to get an iPhone and never be able to use the “phone” part.

But, with this new 3G iPhone just being released, he simply couldn’t contain himself any longer and reserved two of them for us to pick up when they are released this week. With the buzz increasing around these phones, he started to get e-mails from his company’s informal Mac User’s Group (MUG) – people questioning how others who have previous-gen iPhones like them, the service coverage in these parts, etc. Most of the responses were tepid at best, but this one really woke me up:

I’ve read a few of the many, many emails on the subject over the past few days. My wife’s iPhone started becoming a problem a few weeks ago. AT&T sent her one of the “you’re using roaming for data too often” letter and set her phone to show when it was roaming. Like everyone else it shows that it’s off the AT&T network frequently. In particular, it’s roaming now at our home where it used to be on AT&T’s network. We think that someone else boosted their signal or AT&T’s signal has weakened. That’s what pushed her phone into the excessive roaming world. I called to talk to AT&T a couple of times. They eventually agreed to give her pass for now, but warned if she didn’t start doing more none [sic] roaming they’d send another letter and then disable her roaming capability. They lied. Roaming was turned off a few days ago. Her phone is now useless. She can make a call if she is bound to an AT&T tower, but it will disconnect if the signal from someone else’s tower becomes stronger. That’s happening all over the place. Around Santa Fe. In Albuquerque. In Phoenix. Everywhere she goes. I suppose that it would work if she stood under an AT&T tower. She’s about to get a Blackberry from Verizon (and maybe an iPod Touch for fun.)

I’m sorry. But this is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. First, she pays a monthly fee for service that she doesn’t get from the company she is paying money to. Second, she has no control over when she is roaming or not roaming, but gets punished for (God forbid) using her phone in a location where the company that she is paying money to sucks. Third, she gets her roaming capability turned off, in an area where she is paying money to a company that is providing her with no service. Fourth, they blame her for it all in the form of a form letter and the cancellation of the only thing that was making her iPhone operational in the first place.

Wow. No thanks.

Steve Jobs really blew this one. Creating a very innovative gadget that loads of people could find useful, yet entering into an exclusive agreement with a service provider that does this to its customers. For a company that prides itself on usability, Apple should have thought this one through.

Until the iPhone is available on Verizon, I guess we will have to make do with the Blackberry and Pinkberry he and I (respectively) got this weekend. Ah, Progress. It is a wonderful thing.

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The shocking news about the passing of Tim Russert was made all the worse by the realization that he could have had a chance of survival had an AED been present and used after his collapse.ABCNews.com posted a video clip of GMA’s Diane Sawyer and Dr. Memhet Oz explaining the sudden cardiac arrest that Tim suffered and how an AED could have jumpstarted his heart.

Automated External Defibrillators do not help with heart attacks – the slower death of heart tissue, where the victim often feels terrible but is usually awake and conscious.AEDs were designed for specific incidences of sudden cardiac arrest, where the electrical pulses that run the heart get all out of sorts and the heart just starts vibrating in place, otherwise known as ventricular fibrillation. AEDs recognize the fibrillation patterns and recommends shock only in those cases.

Do You Know Where Your AED Is?

Maybe it is the safety culture here at the Lab, but I was completely shocked when I watched the video clip from above. They wandered around the halls and asked ABC staffers if they knew if an AED was on the property, where it was located, and if they knew how to use it.The answer, in a nutshell, was a resounding No to all questions.

LANL got AEDs beginning in 2000. The Wellness Center was one of two sites to pilot the Lab’s AED program, so I have been trained and kept up my AED certification since 2000. Today, my 7 story building has a total of 14 AEDs – 2 on each floor next to the stairwells and close to the break rooms.So to imagine that an organization the size of the ABC studios in New York, with all of the people that work there and the type of equipment they work with, wouldn’t have people trained in the use of AEDs or even people who know if an AED was on the premises is irresponsible at best.

Not Just for Fat, Old Guys

I heard that the Lab was introducing AEDs because The Mucky-Mucks were concerned about the aging population – some guys have been here since the late 1950s-early 1960s. But these have been used 3 times in the last 8 years that I know of, two of which I was generally involved in.

  1. A 50+ year old user at the Wellness Center was on a diet that he read about in Playboy magazine (low calorie, high exercise).After his workout, he went into the shower and promptly passed out. CPR was started, the AED was at the scene, pads applied, shock not administered.
  2. A marathon runner in his early 40’s came back to the Wellness Center after his afternoon 15-mile run, went into the weight room, sat in the chest press machine, inhaled deeply, and pushed on the bars while holding his breath (the classic valsalva maneuver). His heart stopped. CPR was started and AED pads were applied when the paramedics arrived (luckily they were on their way to the WC to workout). I had the distinct pleasure of tracking down the man’s wife in an executive meeting to tell her that her husband was about to be taken away in an ambulance.
  3. An electrician in his mid-30’s performing work on a ladder and was electrocuted. An AED was on the scene, a shock was administered successfully.

In each of these incidents, the people survived, even if the AED wasn’t “used.” It was a help to the first responders, however, knowing that there was a machine at the ready, monitoring the situation, and giving some feedback of whether or not they were on the right track. And notice, save for the first guy, we aren’t talking about overweight, middle-aged people that suffered sudden cardiac arrest. It can happen to otherwise perfectly healthy people, too.

My Recommendation: Get Training First

Even though AEDs are made to be completely dummy-proof, I would recommend training beforehand. For non-gadget people, they can be intimidating and confusing – especially in a panic situation. For non-medical people, the idea of stripping off someone’s shirt, applying sticky pads to their chest and pushing the ON/OFF button is really intimidating, much less push the SHOCK button. With this, practice and preparation helps.

Also, there are situations that you might run into that you don’t think about – what if a guy has a really hairy chest and the pads aren’t adhering right (the packs come with a disposable razor, gotta shave him)? Can they go over bras (sort of, push the straps out of the way, put the other pad lower on the ribcage – clear of the underwire)? What if someone has a pacemaker (use the AED anyway – if the person has no pulse, the pacemaker is broken so the AED shock won’t hurt)?

CPR/AED – Not Just for Strangers Anymore

I heard in one of my trainings (though I can’t find the statistics to back it up) that people perform CPR on others they know more often that the “stranger/bystander” CPR – likely because people often go into cardiac arrest when they are in familiar places (dining with friends, at a family member’s home, at work, in the gym, etc.). Take Tim Russert – he passed out surrounded by colleagues who loved and respected him, but could not save him through CPR alone.

So I encourage you to find a local chapter of the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association and sign up for CPR/AED class. Take a group of friends and make an afternoon of it.

On Saturday, Brent played a gig at a tea house off the Plaza. This place is a local hang-out for the unwashed, trust-fund-baby, bohemian set – outfitted with wicker chairs and tables, big pillows on the floor, and local art on the Moroccan gold walls. The place promotes itself as very zen, but we all know better. Inside of all the mellow, yoga-stretched, “enlightened” Santa Fites that frequent places like this are self-absorbed, narrow-minded, holier-than-thou drama majors just dying for their chance in the spotlight. They come in attention grabbing get-ups — the tall blonde in tight jeans and black sequined top that would have fit in more properly on a Saturday night in NYC, the 50+ year old man with hair dyed the color of Ronald McDonald Red #40 , the scruffy owner traipsing around in his loose-fitting hemp pants and tunic, holding one of 5 scruffy kids acting like the king of the castle while his staff behind the counter struggle to keep up with orders.

After the leader of the second band started to warm up his guitars onstage while the first act was still playing (citing “Hey, man. The audience came to hear me play!”), and I left my book on the pillow that I was sitting on to use the restroom (which, I thought was the international symbol of “This Seat Is Saved”) – only to return to the dirty owner and his oily family sitting in my spot with my book tossed to the side – I decided it was time to exit. Then, as I sat in my perfectly parallel parked car across the street from the tea house, reading my book with the window rolled down, waiting for Brent to finish his set, an older woman in a frighteningly hideous outfit of white pants, white fringed jacket, and white cowboy hat, complete with red and blue sequence from head to toe, white platinum hair, and red smeared lips, gets out of her car, comes up to my window, and asks me to move my car forward so that she can slide into the spot behind me. I snapped. I’m embarrassed to repeat what I said to her here, but it started with “What? So you want me to move my car because you can’t parallel park!?!” and went down hill from there.

Now today I read a story about how there is a movement afoot in Santa Fe to have WiFi removed from public places because some people’s perceived sensitivities to the radio waves makes it an issue under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Freaks. I’m so sick of these people. Their right to exist is so much more important than anyone else’s right to exist. Their “I get a headache from looking into the sun, so the government needs to stretch a huge sunshade over the entire state until I am comfortable” whine gets old. They seem to be the only 12 people on the planet who have “symptoms” from WiFi – have they not thought of other environmental (or just mental) factors that could contribute to their ailments? And in the meantime, they are going to fight to restrict my freedom to engage in communication and commerce via WiFi? Give me a break. Shawn Mullins didn’t get it quite right – the line should have read “Take me far away from Santa Fe!

I just found this article, Why Cars Don’t Get 50mpg, and I love it because it finally answered a lot of questions I have had for a long time about vehicles and gas mileage.

When I moved from California in ’99, I was moving from a very progressive, college town (Davis) with lots of bike paths, good public transportation, and easily rollerblade-able streets and sidewalks. Very few people had trucks (no need), and most drove small cars. Even in Salinas, the only ones who really had large trucks were farmers and ranchers. My brother had a Chevy S10, and my dad had a small Toyota pickup for a while before he started upgrading to Silverados.

So when I moved to New Mexico, I was shocked at the size of everyone’s vehicles. Next to Texas and Wyoming, I’m sure New Mexico could be dubbed “The Land of Big-Ass Trucks and SUVs.” There are a lot of unpaved back roads that a good portion of people live on, and it does snow in the winter, so I kind of understand it. But still. Not so many people “need” these vehicles as much as they “want” the vehicles as status symbols. Brent’s Saab 93 and my 1998 Chevy Prizm were out of place.

Brent has since moved on to a 2004 Toyota Tacoma 4WD (the smaller body style) which gets about 23 mpg on a good day. I still have my Prizm, and I reliably get 36 mpg. Our daily commute takes us 44 miles each way, with an up-down-up elevation change from 7200 ft to 5800 ft to 7300 ft. It is literally uphill both ways. Also, the lack of oxygen at this elevation slows my car down (it runs like a dream on AZ highways) and makes me use more gas. In the summer, we take my car to work, and in the winter (mostly when it snows) we take the truck. So we often think about what I would get to replace my car when it starts to show its age.

My problem with the cars on the market right now is that the gas mileage all sucks. Why would I trade my paid-off, 36 mpg commuter for, say, a Toyota Prius that only gets 48 mpg City (lower on Highway because the electric motor doesn’t kick in once it’s over a certain rpm)? Plus, I’m a total chicken when it comes to driving in snow (and around here, all the cars “grow” when it snows, so crappy roads + ginormous trucks all around me = Me stressed out), so I would prefer to replace it with a 4WD/AWD. Something like a Toyota Matrix AWD would be perfect for me — but not at 26mpg. Nothing is quite good enough to convince me to sell my car and take on a car payment again.

Then the argument starts.

Me: Why can’t car makers just build a car that gets 50mpg, is safe, is AWD, and has enough room for a 5-gallon tree?

The Engineer: Because the car would be too heavy.

Me: You engineers are lazy and overpaid. Just figure it out!

The Engineer: The laws of physics only allow for certain things, so the heavier the car, the more power it needs, the more energy it needs to make the power, etc. And safety features and AWD are heavy components. At some point you start hitting diminishing returns.

Me: That’s total crap. They send people up into space, but they can’t figure out how to make a commuter vehicle with everything I want with low mpg and a reasonable price tag.

The Engineer: Yeah. And one space shuttle mission costs over a billion dollars.

…. And so on. So, I refuse to buy a new car until (A) I get everything I want, or (B) my car gets totalled and I’m forced to buy another (probably a Prius). In the meantime, I have decided to spend the cash to get the engine rebuilt if it comes to that, instead of buying a new car that will not ever be quite what I want.

Update, 10 minutes later:

I found this article on “the car of the future.” The cosmos and I must be temporarily in sync. Thought I’d pass it along, too.

Earlier this week, I found an article on The Slate that made the argument that Starbucks really isn’t running indie coffeehouses out of Dodge. Instead, it explained that the Starbucks marketing machine actually helps the local shops by hyping up the perceived need for foofie-coffee through huge advertising campaigns, moving into neighborhoods that were covered by the local shops, and then essentially being more successful than customers (unaccustomed to waiting in long lines for coffee) were happy with. Hence, the local shops get the Starbucks overflow business.

I thought this was an interesting enough perspective, so I e-mailed it to, among others, my brother, who has been on the anti-coffee-corporatization bandwagon for many years now. In response, he sent me a five-paragraph thesis, complete with references and footnotes, on how the article was full of it. He cited another blogger’s response to the Slate article, and explained that Starbucks did indeed run his own favorite coffeehouse out of business many years ago, and then pointed out that Seattle’s Best Coffee (referred to in The Slate’s article) is actually now owned by Starbucks. Sneaky Starbucks.

Anyway, I bring this all up because I continually marvel at how easy it is to have a dialogue these days cluttered with all kinds of facts/fallacies, information/misinformation, and how we can all fact-check within the span of a few minutes. I often find myself talking with someone about God-knows-what and saying, “Let’s look it up!”

This happened just recently when my smarty-pants coworker and I were talking about all of the things that Bill Gates could do with his cash (i.e. single-handedly eradicate all of the basic diseases from the planet that we already have vaccines for, etc.). I, being prone to exaggeration, claimed that Bill Gates was worth somewhere around $400B. Davis challenged me and instead of arguing with him about something that I know nothing about, we looked it up. Turns out, I wasn’t even close. Bill is only worth $56B. But still – we had that info right at our fingertips so we could pass that little stumbling block and continue with the meat of the issue. I love that.

What did we do before open access to the Internet? Were we all just lying to each other all the time? I know I would not have gone to the library to look up Bill Gates’ net worth on Business Week microfiche. Maybe I would have talked to someone who keeps up with Bill Gates, or at least had a subscription to Business Week, and I would have trusted that they had a better memory for these kinds of figures than I do. If they were wrong, then I would be passing along faulty information and contributing to the whole problem. What a mess!

Another thing I like about the Internet is that I can look up transcripts of speeches or full texts of legislation that I had heard someone else’s spin on, but just didn’t seem right (yes – I did this before I thought about going to law school. What a nerd.). Even though most of this information has always been publicly available, I wouldn’t have had the first clue about where to go searching for it. Plus, it would have taken forever. Now, I can just whip something out of my computer and instantly sound like I know what I’m talking about. Fabulous!

Yet another thing – when was the last time you got an e-mail warning about perfume salesmen preying on women at gas stations, spraying them with a drug, rendering them unconscious? A while? Me too. I haven’t received one of these “Warning! This is not a joke!” e-mails in over a year. I think this is in no small part thanks to sites like snopes.com gaining in popularity. People are still gullible, but they have the ammo to check the facts before forwarding this stuff to their friends.

I know what you are going to say. Everything on the Internet is crap. It’s all shopping, phishing scams, and a bunch of bloggers with more ego than brains (ahem). Oh yeah – and Wikipedia is full of lies. Especially with Stephen Colbert mucking up the wikiality. Well, you are right, but you have to look at everything with that sceptical eye. For all the bad, there are islands of good that make all kinds of information available to people who might not otherwise have access to it. People have to opportunity to increase their knowledge and awareness of the world, and I really dig that.

OK, I know that it is a new year and that I’m supposed to be all optimistic and positive, blah, blah, blah. But is anyone else ticked off at how the whole country has automated their bathrooms? I mean, the auto-flushers are OK – they have noticeably reduced the mess in the girls’ bathrooms over the years (except when they aren’t working, which is a whole other Oprah), but those stupid auto-faucets are the bane of my existence. I swear they were put in place just to screw with me. Pump a few pumps of liquid soap into my hands, then realize that the sinks have no “real” faucets and start waving my hands under faucets like a mad-woman until I find one that will turn on. I don’t know how these things work – infared? motion? heat sensor? radar? sonar? retinal scan? – but they never seem to work for me. The ones at the Albuquerque airport are the worst, but it happens everywhere. Now I’ve just moved into a new building where the whole thing is automated. I stood there at each station – the soap pumper, the sinks, the towel dispenser – waving my hands around the whole room like I’m swatting at the flies in my head trying to get these stupid machines’ attention. Rosie the Robot they are not. In my opinion, some zones should simply be technology-free, and I would classify public restrooms in that category.

It started off like any other Friday. Just after 8:00 AM, I set up my desk and was ready to dig in to the Torts reading – trying to catch up with the reading that I didn’t do the night before. That’s when it appeared – the Blue Screen of Death. I didn’t recognize it at first because the Blue Screen of Death on a Windows box is a shocking, electric blue, usually accompanying a “fatal error” message of some sort. On a Mac, however, the Blue Screen of Death is a beautiful gray blue – like the morning sky just before the sunrise on a crisp fall morning. Apple always has had a way with style…..

So, I call tech support (Brent). What does this pretty blue screen mean? Tech support (Brent) gives me a series of instructions (turn it off, hold the alt key down 30 seconds while powering it up, take out the battery, yadda, yadda, yadda). No go. It’s turning on, but failing on the boot somewhere. Not to worry, tech support tells me. Macs are bullet-proof, but he knows of one person at his office who had a problem with the OS. He bets we can boot it off of the disk. I refrain from panic.

At 11:00 AM, the Geek Squad arrives (Brent). We plug 2.5 hours of change into the parking meter (at $1.60/hour, I might add). He sets up shop on a nice table in the loft of the newer law school building. Lots of natural light, trees outside, breeze blowing, very peaceful. He slides the OSX disk into the CD slot. “Well, this is going to be a short visit.” Why?, I ask. Because the problem is not with the OS, but with the hard-drive. Not good. He takes the computer to the Apple Store in ABQ Uptown. I go to class.

At this point, I am not worried. Every time I think all hope is lost, Brent pulls some trick out of his sleeve and fixes it. Hello – that’s why I live with an ADHD engineer/programmer. In-house tech support. Plus, the rhetoric is that Macs are waaaaayyyyyy better than PCs, right? After the fiasco with my Dell Inspiron a few years ago (bought it new, reinstalled the OS on it 4 times in 3 months, sold it on Ebay for 40% of what I bought it for 4 months before), nothing could possibly top that – especially with a Mac. This is all salvageable.

Wrong. Diagnosis: Catastrophic hard-drive failure. Everything gone. I completely lost it. Four weeks of law school notes, down the F-ing drain. I seriously wanted to die/quit/stab myself in the eye/punch someone. I couldn’t even remember if I had ever backed up anything on that machine. My mind was completely blank. Lots of tears later, I found myself back in Santa Fe. Brent takes my USB key from my bag, sticks it in the PowerBook, and looks for the last file date. 09/06/07. By my stupid, freaking luck, I apparently backed up all of my files on Sept. 6th. I don’t even remember doing it. I only lost 1 week’s worth of stuff. The whole weekend consisted of him reinstalling everything back on my computer (new hard-drive replaced thanks to the Apple Store on warranty), but I’m finally back on track. What a nightmare.

Lessons Learned

  1. Save Often, Back Up Just as Often – At a mere $100/kilobyte, I could have sent my computer to an Apple-approved shop in California for a few weeks, with no guarantee that they could have retrieved anything at all off of it. My 500MB USB key was 80 bucks, and the external hard-drive thingy (120GB) that Brent bought me on Friday was $150. You do the math.
  2. Buy the extended warranty – Even though this was technically covered under the “first” warranty, I bought the AppleCare plan, which extends coverage through 2010 (and, more importantly, covers the entire time I’m in school). The charge for replacing the hard-drive was $317 (free for me). AppleCare was $150.
  3. Don’t Believe the Hype – Apple’s are cute. They’re stylish. They’re funky and hip and sleek. Their software is easier to use. Their laptops weigh less. All of this is important. But, they are not bomb-proof. Do not let anyone – no matter how cute, persuasive, or fanatical they may be (Brent) – tell you that an Apple will never fail you. See #1. Learn it. Live it.

Take it from me – Friends don’t let friends trust computers.