Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Oct 25 2012

Good Bye Apple iPhone – you pushed me into the arms of a competitor (Samsung Galaxy S3)

Published by under Uncategorized

The recent Apple iPhone announcement was quite a disappointment, so I started looking at Android Platforms to see what they offered.  I was also fed up with ATT, so it was also a chance to change carriers.  I loved my iPhone, as did my wife, but after taking a look at the alternatives, it became clear that Apple was on the losing end of the smartphone market, both from a technical and business perspective.

I love my new Samsung Galaxy S3.  It is a like a breath of fresh air, being able to use micro SD cards to expand my memory ($30 for 32GB), swap batteries, use standard power cords, open software, choose my software store (Google or Amazon, for example).  I love Google Maps and their detailed instructions (even in parking lots), the large, bright screen, and the near field communications (NFC) capability (going through an airport, I just tapped my phone against an advertising poster, and downloaded a free song and book).  I simply dragged my music over to the microSD card, and the music players figured it all out.  I tried different keyboards (settling on Swift Key 3), music players (settling on Player Pro), and  downloaded the advanced DSP module for the player that allows spectacular fine tuning of the equalizer.  It is true multi-tasking, letting me run many programs at once,  gives me much better statistics on the use of battery and data, (eg. exactly how much juice the screen is using up).

The Android app store(s) seem to offer a much richer diversity of apps, due to the fact that developers have greater access to the computer – all controlled by the Android approach so that I knew which access privileges each app was requesting before installing.  I can try an app and get a refund if I uninstall it soon after purchasing.  The phone automatically detects a windshield holder (bringing up a car dashboard), or a desk stand (going into alarm clock mode), or with stickers that I can attach and program myself.

Android already surpasses iPhone in smart phone sales, and I see this as an unstoppable trend as the full benefits of Google’s open architecture thrives as Apples “walled garden” approach stiffles innovation and growth.

I find the Samsung to be far superior technology to iPhone, and I despite Apple’s marketing prowess, I think that they are going to be seeing more folks leave their iPhones behind, as customers realize how they are being taken for a ride with the plethora of cable changes, closed devices, and approaches.

So, good bye Apple’s “Walled Garden” and hello, Google’s Open platform.


Comments Off on Good Bye Apple iPhone – you pushed me into the arms of a competitor (Samsung Galaxy S3)

May 31 2012

Congratulations to David Brin on his new book “Existence”

Published by under Uncategorized

Science Fiction author David Brin
My friend and neighbor David Brin has outdone himself with his new book, Existence. Here is the trailer:

David has an amazing ability to see the big picture in things, and, as a science fiction writer, a license to write about it.  He can be a very frustrating intellectual sparring partner.  It seems every time I come up with what I think is a neat new idea, he says, “yes, I wrote a book about that…”

I know a bit of the creative turmoil he went through in getting this out, so congratulations!  Our wives have the same first name, and I can just imagine the conversation in the Brin household:  “I know you are trying to save humanity, uplift dolphins, and create intergalactic peace.  But we need the trash taken out now.”

Here is a sample of the conversations we’ve had.  This was on the Singularity and post-humanism with Vernor Vinge, Ben Goetzel, Jamais Cascio, Frederick Turner, David Ellerman, and others.






Comments Off on Congratulations to David Brin on his new book “Existence”

May 25 2012

Published by under Uncategorized

Here is a 1977 paper I wrote with richard Walters test


Comments Off on

May 24 2012

My 1978 paper “A Linguistic Comparision of MUMPS and Cobol”

Here is a paper summarizing some of my original thoughts about MUMPS as a general symbol-processing interpretive language that integrates data and program, and COBOL, as a rigid, predefined language that splits data and program into two different domains.  I presented this at the 1980 AFIPS Fall Joint Computer Conference in Anaheim, Ca.

Linguistic Comparison of MUMPS and COBOL

The concepts I present in this paper became key attributes of what is now called the VistA electronic health record system.

Unfortunately, despite the success of these concepts, they are threatened by the next generation health record systems, which pretty much reverts to the conceptual models that have descended from the COBOL model I describe.


Comments Off on My 1978 paper “A Linguistic Comparision of MUMPS and Cobol”

May 04 2012

Dances with Meteors

Published by under Uncategorized

Dances with Meteors

Originally uploaded by munnecket

Here is a fun image I took at Joshua Tree National Park during the Lyrid Meteor showers.


Comments Off on Dances with Meteors

May 03 2012

David Brin talking at Cosmos Research Center Star Party

David Brin is one of my favorite intellectual sparring partners.  Luckily, he lives nearby, so he was able to drop in at a children’s science star party I held in June 2007.

Here is a video of David’s presentation to the kids, (mostly K-8).

and here is a portrait I took of him:
Science Fiction author David Brin

I started the Cosmos Research Center in a shed in my backyard, and then got lab coats, a logo, a website, and named myself Executive Director. I really enjoy motivating kids to dig deeper into science, which has also lead to my becoming a NASA/JPL Solar Systems Ambassador.


Comments Off on David Brin talking at Cosmos Research Center Star Party

Apr 13 2012

360 panoramic photo of San Elijo Lagoon

Published by under Uncategorized

here is a panorama I shot this week, trying out a new camera on a robotic Gigapan mount. It is at the center of the San Elijo Lagoon, one of my favorite places to hike and and photograph.

and here is the Google Earth version, which shows the panorama in 3D.



Comments Off on 360 panoramic photo of San Elijo Lagoon

Feb 15 2012

I am no longer associated with Class-Act

Published by under Uncategorized

I want to announce that I am no longer associated in any way with the non-profit organization Class-ACT  of Cardiff-by-the-Sea.


Comments Off on I am no longer associated with Class-Act

Jan 31 2012

Kaiser Chronicles – Post 1

Published by under Uncategorized

I’ve just switched my health insurance back to Kaiser Permanente Southern California.   Our children were born in Kaiser hospitals, and we were always very happy with the services they provided.   We moved to another system for about 15 years, but due to a complicated string of circumstances, our group plan administration forced us to switch back to Kaiser, which we wanted to do anyway.

I have been hearing very good things about Kaiser – from docs who like the working conditions, predictable salary, and ability to focus on health care, not business.  We have also heard very good things from current members.  So, we are excited to be back as Kaiser members, both as patients, but also to see more of their model from a patient perspective, chatting up fellow members in the waiting room, and asking employees what they think of their computer system, and the Kaiser model.

They use the Epic Systems Electronic Health Record, which is a first cousin to the VA VistA system which has been my briar patch for the past three decades.  The CEO of Epic, Judith Faulkner, was active at the MUMPS Users’ Group meetings while still a graduate student.  She formed Epic, and I went off to join the VA to do what is now VistA.  Here is an paper from 1979 describing some of her ideas.

I chose a physician from a nearby clinic, and got my initial appointment with him within about 10 days.  I was very impressed with how efficient things were. I was very confident that he was on my side, and not calculating his billing codes per diagnosis, nor pushing drug samples that he got from pharma reps.  (I recall one appointment I had with a doc at Scripps Clinic where the posted a sign saying that, due to the fact that the doc was just returning from vacation, he would not be seeing pharma reps.  A woman dragging a cart full of drugs wearing stiletto heels, a  blouse that wasn’t fully buttoned, and very tight skirt walked right in past the waiting patients. )

I was referred me to 4 other services at Kaiser; I got appointments with them that afternoon.  One class that was scheduled a month later, but I got two specialty services 2 and 9 days later.  He referred me to the travel clinic for an upcoming trip to Costa Rica, and they called me back within two days with full information about vaccination, advisories about malaria areas, etc.

I went in for my lab tests, waited only 10 minutes in the waiting room, and started getting my results online before I got home.  The pharmacy automated kiosk was closed, so there was quite a line at the pharmacy, but other than that, I didn’t have to wait for any of my appointments past the scheduled time.

This was all delightfully efficient.  Everyone I met was cheerful and a pleasure to deal with.  So far, an A+ for organizational efficiency.

I liked the online access to my medical information.  It is a bit hard to navigate, and it is still coming from a design ethic of “automating the organization chart” rather than reflecting what a patient wants to see.  There’s no “what’s new” feature; I have to drill down each branch of the departmental tabs, then scan the lists for information of interest.  It’s nice to have access to this information, but it is still pretty hard to navigate sensibly from the patient’s perspective.

I wrote the Opening Chapter  (with Dr. Rob Kolodner, former head of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for health IT at HHS ) in a book : Person-Centered Health Records : Toward HealthePeople, called “Inverting our Perspective” – calling for a generalized move to personalization in health care.  I was also one of the first to call for the personal health record in 1999: in Concepts of the Health Data Vault.

I suspect that Kaiser is working on this in the background – it will be curious to see how they balance their centralized model (which has many benefits) with the personalization of health care that I advocated in my Senate Hearing on the Future of Health IT.

Clinical genomics is still at the early stages of development; perhaps the equivalent of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk.  But the rate of acceleration of the technology behind it is breathtaking.  My fear is that the EHR folks are still going to be building biplanes out of bicycle parts while clinical genomics needs a 747.

I really like the Kaiser “Thrive” tag line… it is energizing when I come in to the offices, and I think it creates a positive framework for health care. This is similar to Jonas Salk’s vision that we need to create an Epidemic of Health.  I think that a key difference between Kaiser’s Thrive campaign is that it is a top down campaign: Kaiser is the organization supporting their patients to thrive.  An epidemic of health model, such as proposed by James Fowler from UCSD, would be more of a viral, peer-to-peer, social network kind of thing.  Again, this might be a shift for a centralized organization like Kaiser to make, as it would necessary to reach outside to non-Kaiser patients.   Kaiser, like all health care organizations, call themselves “Patient Oriented” – and Kaiser makes good on the promise, I think.  But the subtext is still “Only if you are one of OUR patients.”  So, it’s still a “you come first after me” kind of model.  To trigger the epidemic of health “viral” model, we need a broader framework, I think.

Getting my medical records transferred from Scripps is still a hassle.  I’m still trying to figure out the results from a colonoscopy at Scripps from 6 years ago.  Maybe I’ll get the results in in 4-6 weeks.  The were just converting to an Allscripts system when I was leaving, which the docs hated.  The Medical records department said I could NOT get my information from their EHR in computer form, but only by printed copy.   HIPPA regulations require that they transfer the records in the format that they were recorded in, but Scripps is just blowing me off on this.

I went into the Scripps medical record room, where they would let me look at my paper medical record under their careful eye.  I asked if I could take copies of my medical record with my iPhone, and they gasped like I was asking to commit an act of espionage.  I had to pay them per page (I think the price was $2.50/page) and it would take several weeks for the company to come in to copy them.  They explained that this was all for my protection.  The also told me 18 mos ago that my EHR information on Allscripts system was not available for my review, due to “Security” regulations.  I suppose I could have made a ruckus and thrown the HIPPA regulations at them, but I have more important windmills to tilt, (I think).

Speaking of HIPPA, the Kaiser medical record system will send me a message that new data exists on my personal portal, but I have to log on to the portal to see the data.   This is all well and good for privacy, but I really don’t care if folks hack my email and get my fecal sample results or urine PH… I would like the option to have the results sent to me via email.  That way, I could file my medical information under a Gmail label, and have a permanent record of it.  For example, if I had gotten my cholesterol levels via email from both Kaiser and Scripps, it would have been a simple process to just do a Gmail query to get the results in seconds.  No, they would not be semantically interoperable.  And no, they would not support advanced AI decision support.  But still, it would have been “good enough” to get started… and probably create a market for some smart widget designer to make them more compatible.  But at least, it would allow me to connect the dots, rather than have the connections lost in space somewhere.

Email with my physician is excellent.  Very efficient, and it gives me great confidence that I can maintain a close connection with him and his advice, without having to go through the whole appointment process.

All in all, I’m delighted with Kaiser’s services and approach so far.

Next episode:

I worked on a proposal to install the VA VistA system at Kaiser back in the 1990’s.  I’m digging out my notes that I wrote back then, and will see what I was thinking back then.


Comments Off on Kaiser Chronicles – Post 1

Jan 20 2012

Follow up on the NEST thermostat

Published by under Uncategorized

It’s been over a month now with our new NEST thermostat.   I generally like it, but am not sure of its value beyond the “gee whiz” technology stage. We had one problem with it dropping off into “Away” mode automatically, and my wife not being able to figure out how to turn it back on.  (you have to press the panel, not just turn the dial).

The support line suggested turning off Away mode, as the solution.

Another problem I have with it is that there is no way to figure out what it has been doing.  No trend lines, graphs, on-times…  I think that they are carrying their sense of minimalism too far…

I still like it, but don’t think that its living up to its potential.


No responses yet

« Prev - Next »

Creative Commons License
Images by Tom Munnecke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at