Friday, December 3, 2010

ERC in Porto

The 2010 Cardiac Resuscitation Guidelines were released a month ago, detailing the best thinking on how to save victims of sudden cardiac arrest.  It’s a dynamic field: there are always new ideas alongside old ones, evidence pro and con, all working towards improving the dismal survival rates of out-of-hospital events (currently less than 7%).  The European Resuscitation Council, an umbrella organization for the national groups setting practice standards and training methods, sponsors this meeting to review the latest studies and products ever two years. This year’s meeting is being held in Porto, along the northern Portuguese coast.

Porto is an old and fascinating city, sprawled along steep riverbanks, graced with winding, vertical streets and blue-tiled churches.  The city is best known for port wine and salt cod, distinctive river boats and wildly variable weather.  Torrential rainstorms develop in moments, then vanish in minutes; quick refuge in sweet shops or bars is the only (and appreciated) alternative during a walk.

The conference is being held in an old transport barn along the river, with huge rooms, stone walls, and colored lights.  Its a unusual venue, filled with over 2000 attendees   A lot of Dutch are down for this one: they all claim to be fleeing the snow.

The conference is showcasing a lot of good science from centers worldwide: several pet theories of mine have already been shot down (and a few have been elevated).  I always believed the the electrocardiogram held valuable information to guide care: a large study of mathematical waveform analyses shows that there’s nothing useful in the techniques I’d championed ten years ago.  Unfortunate (especially since this costs me a bet with a colleague).  At the same time, advances in cooling patients (therapeutic hypothermia) and emergency alerting using GPS-enabled mobile phones are saving lives, as I have long thought they could.

Again, it speaks to the difficult diffusion of innovation from idea prototype to practice. It’s a long and twisting road: a lot of good ideas fall along the wayside or never get tried until decades after they are conceived.  How can we get good ideas accelerated, bad ones eliminated, earlier in the process?

It’s a bit of an odd show for me because I meet a lot of friends and colleagues from the company I worked for a decade ago.  It’s tempting to spend time in familiar surroundings catching up with old friends.

So it’s been even more important  to execute on key reasons for being here.  There are people and companies that I need to meet, and a story that I have to write with other’s help. Renewing the network and staying engaged with the community is important, but secondary.

Funny, it used to be the other way around back in corporate days.  Connecting and strengthening bonds and brands was the word of the day.  Interesting, again, how things change because I’m running a business,  not just a product  or project.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter around Cambridge

A rare snowfall around the cities: Barrington and London:


Markets and neighborhoods (bike riders undeterred, as in Maastricht):


…and the Backs and Kings College:



Monday, November 29, 2010

Keeping up (almost)

Life has been a whirl since touching down at Heathrow last week.  There’s been a pitch or presentation every day, hours-long telephone meetings, ever-growing to-do lists.

and snow.

The weather was unusual in Seattle, where three inches turned hills into ice-slides.  It was expected in Minneapolis, where blowing snow obscured the runways.  But it’s surprising in Cambridge, where the sun greeted a dense blizzard, short lived but ferocious, this morning.  The temperatures are hovering around freezing, but the roads have good traction and the salt trucks are out.

I guess it’s the worst start to a winter in the UK since (depending on the source) 15 or 50 years ago.  I mused about whether the Great Atlantic Conveyor was finally weakening, my favorite disaster scenario from global warming.

The worldwide system of ocean currents is powered by a delicate balance of temperature and salinity. Differences in the density of seawater drive forces that power the great rivers between the continents.  A tip in salinity caused by increased freshwater and higher temperatures could reverse the Gulf Stream, which would dramatically chill northern Europe.

Imagine this picture running backward and you’ve got it exactly.


The larger question is why snow seems to be following me across the hemisphere.  As new snow began to fall on Bury St. Edmonds when I arrived for a pitch this evening, it was becoming more than simple coincidence.  I head for Porto on Wednesday: if Portugal gets unseasonable snow, I’m selling my services to the resorts in the French Alps.

The larger problem with my life was summarized by the tableau of cars in the parking lot.  That would be my blue Fiesta next to an investor’s red muscle car.  I don’t know whether to characterize it as irony, perspective, or aspiration.

Saturday I participated in a seminar on entrepreneurship with a group of business students from Italy at the Judge School.  It was a good exchange of ideas and views, and reminded me of a time when we took on an intern back in the Research Group in Seattle.

We thought that the intern would help with some of the experiments and data analysis, bringing some fresh energy to routine tasks.  Along the way, she interviewed everyone in the group about their background and career path.

Morale brightened noticeably: everyone was reminded of why they do what they do and the passion they once had for their field.  I think that these lectures carry the same opportunity for renewal, remembering larger purposes with fresh enthusiasms.