Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month

It may seem ironic, but this month is Sudden Cardiac Awareness month in the United States.  Given the crumbling world economy, you may be more interested in preventing the stressful causes of heart attacks than with treating them.  Still, it can affect anyone, any time, and we all need to do our part to help.

There has never been a time when people are more likely to survive a cardiac arrest.  New research has revolutionized the treatment recommendations for doctors and civilians alike.  Emergency Response Services stand ready to help in many parts of the world, aided by enhanced notification and dispatch services.

This is my field of expertise: I have worked for decades to make defibrillators smaller, cheaper, more effective, and easier to use.  You can now find these lifesaving devices in airports, schools, and public arenas throughout the world.   

But, still, too many die who could be saved.

The biggest enemy is time.  Survival decreases 10% per  minute from the moment the heart stops beating.   In these circumstances, every moment counts, and you are their only chance for life.

If you see someone collapse, don’t hesitate!  Call emergency response teams as quickly as possible, giving your location at the outset of the call (they don’t dispatch until they know where you are).

Start chest compressions immediately!  Bystander CPR adds precious minutes to the window where the heart can be restarted.  Take a First Aid course which teaches CPR and defibrillation (it only takes a few hours).

Support your local emergency medical services!  I am always always amazed when taxpayers vote down EMS levy’s, or when they don’t make way for flashing emergency vehicle lights on the highways.

Congress passed a resolution declaring October as Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Awareness Month. SCA can strike persons of any age, gender, race and even those who seem in good health. To help commemorate this first-ever SCA Awareness initiative, the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association invites you to take two minutes to watch our new public service announcement (PSA) with Tom Brokaw of NBC News, view a normal and abnormal heartbeat and download fact sheets to increase your knowledge about SCA and learn how you can help save a life.

For more information visit

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Visible signs of the coming of Winter

 old Old 2

The brilliant golden tree in my backyard is fading day by day…

But it is a beautiful autumn in Arnhem so far.  The gallery below gives some idea.

  The river pictures are from the Rijnkade, an area of restaurants along the Neder Rijn in downtown Arnhem.

  The tower is the Eusebius Church which dominates the skyline here. 

  The arched bridge is the rebuilt “Bridge Too Far” (the movie has been playing nightly on UPC this week, perhaps commemorating the anniversary of Operation Market Garden (Sept 17 – Sept 25 1944).


DSC02192 DSC02195DSC02194    DSC02193DSC02200 DSC02203DSC02202 DSC02204

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bits of Seattle in the Netherlands

DSC02186 There are a lot of similarities between the Pacific Northwest and the Netherlands.

The atmospheric environment is almost synchronized between the two, with wet, gusty maritime weather systems and moderate year-around temperatures.  It’s around 20 deg C in both areas right now.

In either case, winters are dark and burdened with near-constant drizzle and mist, but both have glorious early fall days when the skies turn warm as the leaves begin turn.

Their cultures look outward and forward, progressive and tolerant.  People  like their bookshops, strong coffee, and outdoor activities.  There is limited land available for people to live, further defined by water spread across their geographies, which makes for close neighborhoods and awful traffic snarls on the motorways.  Both have sprawling tulip farms.

There are differences, of course.  The mountains give Seattle a contrast that is lacking in the flat Dutch landscapes, and the gigantic evergreens that fill the Northwest can’t find root in the sandy soil here.  People don’t go boating as much in Holland, they don’t bike as much in Seattle; they don’t snowboard in the Netherlands, they seldom Ice Skate in the Pacific Northwest.

And Seattle has slugs.image

Huge banana slugs are a constant element of the Seattle environment.  Mornings and evenings, I always found large numbers of them oozing across our walkways and into the gardens.

When the kids were little we joined a cooperative preschool: I was naturally a science activity coordinator.  One week, we built a ‘slug-farm’ as a nature project, filling an aquarium with banana slugs.  They are actually pretty tranquil, gliding across the glass and curling up together in corners.  (They are also pretty stupid: if one fell into the water dish and drowned, they all followed).

I hadn’t realized seen slugs in the Netherlands, although it seems like a natural place for them to thrive.  So, it was nice to come across an old friend from Seattle, sliding across my sidewalk yesterday morning.  Small and brown (rather than fat and green), but, still, a familiar face and a twinge of nostalgia.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Watching the markets swoop and plunge.

   A poem, fashionable in the United States, anticipates the time “when suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.”  Do the Dutch, equivalently, start to ride purple?


As the financial crisis continues to grind forward through the world’s markets, I’ve been keeping up through podcasts of Bob Brinker’s MoneyTalk radio show from the US.  (Disclosure: I subscribe to his “MarketTimer” newsletter, and to his “On-Demand” service that streams his weekend program.)  Over the years, I’ve adopted his investment philosophies, using diversified no-load mutual funds to build a nest egg able to support eventual (preferably early) retirement.  He’s recently had very clear explanations of the current problems in the global economy, and thoughtful guests from the NY Times, the Economist, and leading universities to give perspective.

He had two good observations on the bailout / rescue package last week.  First, from a political standpoint, it’s noteworthy that the House balked at a 700 billion dollar package, but when 150 billion more in tax breaks was added, it became acceptable.  Second, from an economic perspective, the package has an inherent contradiction that it needs to buy mortgages cheaply for taxpayers (for perhaps 30 cents on the dollar), while also supporting a price that keeps the financial system liquid (perhaps 60 cents on the dollar).  Together, these are likely to mean that the plan may cost more, and yield much less, than people are presently expecting.  (His guest, an MIT economist, also noted that the package does not satisfy people’s desire to see someone held accountable for the mess: unless there is some element of revenge, then it doesn’t have the teeth to deter future excesses).

It’s a bit distressing to see how negatively the markets have reacted to the legislation: it may look similarly contradictory to them.

A Slate Explainer podcast, trying to explain how large 700 billion dollars is, noted (tongue in cheek) that it could be paid by acquiring the Netherlands, whose GDP (ranked around 20th in the world) is approximately that size. (They went on to note that the US has a dismal record for invasions recently: it might be better to acquire the aggregate private savings accounts in Germany, also about 700 billion dollars.)

We used to joke that a characteristic trait of academics and researchers is to be both arrogant and clueless.  I’m starting to get the same feeling about the wisdom of crowds.  There seems to be a lot of irrationality mixed in with the perfect information attributed to the free markets.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tools to manage your narratives

airtraff_0001 First, a link for the day: Air Traffic Worldwide (be sure to click for the high-def version of the video). This one-minute video shows the progress of air flights over a 24 hour period, superimposed on the progressing day/night terminator. For those who travel, it’s fascinating to watch how the tendrils of traffic reach out from continent to continent in anticipation of dawn, and how the national airspaces quiet at night. Even from an artistic viewpoint, it’s striking how the organic forms grow and merge.


Facebook Life is a story. Increasingly, you can tell your personal narrative on the web with microblogging tools, and keep up with your friend’s activities by subscribing to their feeds. So, for example, I log into Facebook every few days and update my Status. While there, I read what my associates are doing on the displayed News Feed.

It’s actually become a nice way of keeping up: it’s better than a blog when I just need to write a sentence or two, and it’s a concise way to survey how everyone is doing.

The problem is that it’s all local to one environment.

As social network tools spread, most now have status lines and feed updates. The work involved in going to Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, and others to type in the same status and to catch up with different communities is wasted time. I’d like to have a way to aggregate all my feeds into a single stream, and to type my status in once and have it show up everywhere.

There isn’t a perfect solution yet, but there are two good free services to consider.

I like FriendFeed for aggregating my narrative. It collates changes that I make in blogs, photos, tweets, and other sources into a single news feed that others can subscribe to. 43 service sources are currently supported, and, although there is a Facebook plugin, it's not very functional. I've ended up piping unsupported feeds through indirect connections to supported services like Twitter. As FriendFeed continues to mature, this should improve. Maybe an RSS Aggregator can do something similar (I use NetVibes), but I like the simple display, UI, and comment / delete management tools that FriendFeed supplies.

I am experimenting with for distributing status updates and microblog messages to other sources. supports cross-messaging to 30 different services. You can select which service receives a posted message, and which part of a service to direct a message to (status or micro-blog). It supports picture posting and now a speech-to-text application: they are actively expanding the service and it’s great for the simple job of doing cross-service updates.

It’s all another step forward towards being able to keep our dispersed communities active and connected.