A Tree Falls in Reston

yayaThere’s an adage I’ve heard repeated many times that on their deathbed nobody ever wished they had spent more time at work. Well last week right after telling me from memory her Social Security number and less than 24 hours before her final breath, my Mom did just that.

“I so enjoyed my career at the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” she said. “I wish I had worked there longer.”

My Mom, an economist and librarian who died on New Year’s Day, was a nerd.

She might not have identified herself as such, but she was definitely a nerd.

This lady took no prisoners. Ideas and words were important to her. Mastering concepts, too. At her dinner table you had […]

Scarface: He’s got Boris Yeltsin eyes

scarfaceLast Wednesday night I posted my most recent column, turned out the lights in my office, walked down eight stone steps, tripped and smashed my face into the side of our house with a thunk that brought everybody running. Ten stitches and two days later I took the picture you see here in which I look way better. So if anybody wonders why I was a no-show tonight at the Computer History Museum’s reunion for the Homebrew Computer Club, this is my excuse. I can’t see well yet and I sure as heck can’t drive. Woz didn’t make it either I’m told.

I wish I had been at the museum, of course. Those who were […]

How Big Data is destroying the U.S. healthcare system

denied-stampOne thing I find ironic in the current controversy over problems with the healthcare.gov insurance sign-up web site is that the people complaining don’t really mean what they are saying. Not only do they have have little to no context for their arguments, they don’t even want the improvements they are demanding. This is not to say nothing is wrong with the site, but few big web projects have perfectly smooth launches. From all the bitching and moaning in the press you’d think this experience is a rarity. But as those who regularly read this column know, more than half of big IT projects don’t work at all. So I’m not surprised that […]

Abe fiddles while Fukushima leaks

fukushimatanksIn the middle of a pissing match between the President and Congressional leadership it’s good to remember that the United States isn’t the only government that seems to have lost touch with reality. I was reminded of that today when I read this story about the contaminated water problem at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Now here’s a government that is truly paralyzed!

The story from Japan Times, if you choose to read it, says Japanese Prime Minister Abe is reaching out to foreign experts in an attempt to deal with the problem of radioactive cooling water that is accumulating in hundreds of makeshift tanks that are now beginning to leak. “We […]

What Intel and AMD clean rooms could teach hospitals

buttonIn 19th century Europe (and probably in America, too) women were less likely to die in childbirth if their babies were born at home or even on the street rather than in hospitals. The reason was simple: street and home births almost always involved the doctor or midwife washing their hands, thus minimizing the risk of infection. Doctors of the time rarely bothered to wash between hospital patients. Yum. Ignaz Semmelweiss first noticed this in Austria before 1850. Then Louis Pasteur came up with his germ theory of disease in 1864. Finally Joseph Lister in England (he of Listerine fame) pioneered the use of carbolic acid (phenol) antiseptics and the fight against germs took off […]