Saturday, October 23, 2010

Deadlines and checkpoints

Ryan profileThe computer has (again) suffered a glitch, with the operating system choosing to ignore the wireless card.  I can still run the internet off a LAN wire, but it means working offline for a while, then running to make a connection to upload and download, then disconnecting to rejoin the office.  Sony is chewing through the problem by remote access, but without success so far.

I’m back in the US for a few days, trying to regain momentum on the development project I’m advising.  It’s entered the ‘death march’ stage, where everyone feels like the device is 90% complete, but milestone dates that incorporate that assumption are falling weekly.  We had a rare Saturday session to try to get everyone’s perspective on the crucial tasks and issues, and set up new timelines.  The problems are heightened because we budgeted according to the original timelines, and now the money is gone with work still to be done.

In my Business Development role, I’m concerned that outside partners will start to doubt a) the product maturity, b) the program reliability, and c) the people’s competence.  It’s a delicate wire to walk: everything is under control but it’s going to take a wee bit longer than expected.

altPassing through the UK, I advised the Border Agent that I would only be in the country for two days.  And where are you staying?”  In my home, I smiled, pointing to my residence permit. You’re confusing the computer, she observed, poking at her keys.  If you keep coming and going, you’ll get tagged as a visitor and they will cancel your residence permit.  I always point it out as I come and go.  Not enough: you have to say you are staying 30 days even if you aren’t.  You’re advising me to lie to a Border Agent? I smiled sweetly.  No, only to the computer.

I think we’re all coming to depend too much on our machines.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Peterborough Cathedral

altThe East of England has several great cathedrals, raised above the Fens centuries ago and lovingly embellished across the years.  I’d heard a lot about the Peterborough’s Cathedral\, but it’s an hour outside of Cambridge, too far for a casual outing.  But, when Amazon inexplicably left a book for me to pick up there, it was a good opportunity to visit the edifice.

altFrom a distance, it looks like most gothic churches, all sand-colored spires against the blue skies.  But the West Face, viewed from across the Close, is amazing.  There is a square Norman block foundation, embellished with the Gothic arches and points: I think that Carcasonne had a similar church-upon-a-church.

Inside, the stone galleries support a richly ornamented ceiling.  The modern icon suspended over the chapel feels out of place, but the wood- and stone-work throughout is very graceful.  There is some fanwork ceiling towards the back and warm light throughout: the criss-crossing arches give a lot of depth and interest to the ceilings and the tomb of Queen Katherine was a surprise to find her here rather than Westminster.

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The outside grounds are worth a stroll: the Cathedral looks smaller around the exterior but the statuary and gardens are an intimate contrast to the soaring vaults inside.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Constructions in Copenhagen

DSC00671Unfortunately, I didn’t get into Copenhagen to enjoy the city: I usually try to get one night at Tivoli gardens and visit a restaurant along the inner harbor, at a minimum.  The Gardens are a wonderful blend of music, flowers, rides, and food, especially good on midsummers night when the witches are burned as traditional songs are sung at midnight (I had a sheet of Danish lyrics shoved into my hands to participate as the flames rose over the ponds).

I usually have a beer and tackle the Tower, a clanking, hissing pole that hoists you far above the city before dropping you, free-fall, back to earth.  It’s absolutely terrifying, and I do it every time I visit.

However, the conference was held at Bela Center, out near the airport and a good 20-minute metro ride from the city.  This is an area that is rapidly being developed with striking contemporary  buildings, offices and apartments, wind farms and shopping malls.  I usually think that Dutch architecture is aggressively futuristic, but some of this is right out of Blade Runner.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Updating my cardiac knowledge

DSC00655Back on the road, and it takes it’s toll. The ‘week of ideas’ became a ‘week of silent contemplation’, working from early morning late into  the evening in the UK, Copenhagen, and now the US.  Sometimes life gets ahead of good intentions.

The European Society of Cardiology Acute Cardiac Care meeting was in Copenhagen last week, and turned out to be a particularly good gathering.  Many friends and colleagues were presenting their research and ideas, and there were good reviews of current diagnostic techniques and emerging therapies.

The Guidelines for Resuscitation 2010 were rolled out: this is an update to the worldwide clinical practice standards for  life-threatening cardiac arrest, AMI, stroke and respiratory arrest.  Every five years, the leading lights of the scientific and clinical communities review the new published science and update the best practices: this year’s changes focused on the importance of early and continuous chest compressions, and on the improvements that come from cooling to 34C to protect the brain and heart.

DSC00651I gave a talk reviewing our work with subcutaneous heart monitors, small devices placed just beneath the skin to continuously watch for problems with heart rhythms, and the further opportunities to remotely assess patient health and risk factors. It was well received, with good questions and people coming up afterward to talk about some of the ideas.  It sett my thinking of in some new directions, especially with regard to the importance of establishing trust between patients and providers in remote monitoring settings.  We’ve all had bad experiences with technical call centers, and it would be intolerable to have similar issues in a health care interaction.