Posts Tagged ‘mis’

un-Health IT

April 12, 2012

I went in to get a blood test today. I’m a pretty healthy guy all told (when I had my mustering-out physical, the doctor thought part of my records must be missing, my career health record folder was so slim), and I’m usually only in for an annual physical. That’s what this was in preparation for.

Since my last visit, actually since last month, the clinic had gone to a new IT system — new provider, cloud based, the usual. What was irksome was that none of my medical insurance data had come across (I didn’t think to ask about my actual records), so they had to re-enter all of the data from my employer’s plan, my Medicare, and my Tricare coverage. Produce the cards. Scan them in. Re-enter things like emergency contact number. Wait for the servers, somewhere out in ‘the cloud’, to respond.

This is stupid. This is wasteful. This borders on criminal. Any company who cannot engineer a simple data transfer from one system to another shouldn’t be in business, and they certainly shouldn’t be in the health IT business. I didn’t think to ask what of my actual health records didn’t come over. Do they still know what drugs I am allergic to, or will they find out through trial and error?

I have said it before, and I’ll undoubtedly say it again. I lived my whole life, man and boy, in the military health care system. It worked, and it worked well. It is a government-run single payer system. Was it perfect? No. But, I’d take it in a heartbeat over the crapped up system we have today.

Organizing My Web

January 15, 2011

One problem we have today is too much unstructured information. More information is usually better, but not if it is in a form that prevents us from finding it, evaluating it, and understanding it. A major source of information, and chaos, is the web. There’s just too much good stuff out there to keep track of, even if you are a specialist. If you happen to be an omnivore, you are in deep trouble. Over the years I have developed a methodology for structuring my web surfing. I am presenting it here because you might find it useful. (more…)

Reading List Page

June 16, 2010

In response to user demand (i.e. one search in a two year period), I have decided to move my reading list from its obscure position as a long-dead post to a new glory on its own page. Look to your right, under Pages.

Wednesday Wii — A Balanced View

August 12, 2009

The Wii Fit has an interesting approach to improving and measuring your balance. It’s a two stage process. First, you train, on various exercises and minigames, doing things that improve your balance. In the artificial neural net side of Systems Science, we call this the ‘training set’, and if you think about it, the Wii Fit is training a real neural net, the three pounds of jellied neurons you carry at the top of your spinal column. The yoga exercises improve your static balance — the ‘Tree’ and ‘Half Moon’ poses, for example. Dynamic balance is through the strength exercises (‘Single Leg Lift’), or through true games (‘Penguin Slide’). Once you have trained up, you are then tested, but not on the things you trained on, instead, you have a ‘test set’, of exercises that are mostly unlike any of the games. Examples are the ‘Basic Balance’ test, and the measurement made whenever you run a body test. This is a good approach, I use something like it to train artificial neural nets, but the Wii Fit implementation leaves something to be desired. There’re two problems that I have encountered so far, response time, and lack of a trainable baseline.

The response time is a minor problem because it is only noticeable in a couple of the games — the ‘tightrope walk’ between two buildings, and the ‘walk your bubble’ down the stream games. In the other games, the character on screen responds more or less instantly to your weight shifts on the balance board. In those two, there is a noticeable delay, probably programmer-induced, between movement and action on the screen. The problem with this is that it’s teaching you the wrong thing. It’s teaching you, the system, to respond to what you think your body’s going to do, not to what it’s actually doing. This is a good idea for a pilot — you want to stay ahead of the aircraft — but not for inculcating basic balance skills.

The second problem is even worse, since it pervades all of the games and exercises. When you train on the Wii, you never get to evaluate your balance against an absolute measure, it’s always against where you were when the exercise started. You do get to see your absolute balance in a number of places, but nowhere that it does you any good. For example, every time you move to a new game, there’s a brief period where a green fuzzball moves around on the screen. That shows where your balance is, using the balance board as an absolute frame of reference. However, the display only lasts a second or so, and you don’t have a chance to get into a truly balanced position to see what it feels like. You also get to see your absolute balance during the initial phase of the body test, and during the ‘Basic Balance’ test, one of the tests that the Wii has selected just for you. In the first case, it’s only for a few seconds. It’s longer in the second test, but you have no control over when you are given that test, it appears at the whim of the Wii gods, and you can’t rerun it.

All the training exercises measure relative balance — relative to how you were standing when the exercise started. They have these little yellow circles, and your little red balance point moves around as you shift your balance, that little red dot starts in the centre every time. You can see this best in the basic breathing exercise, or in the Half Moon. No matter how far over you are leaning, your red dot comes up in the centre of the yellow, every time. Try it. Start the breathing exercise, and make sure all your weight is on one foot. See? Not only does this not give you as much useful information as it might, it can throw you off if it takes you longer to settle into a position than the Wii thinks you should. A brief wobble at the wrong moment will make the Wii think you are leaning well away from where you should be.

While the underlying approach is good — you don’t want people training to the test — the implementation is frustratingly flawed. It’s like training a ANN to find the global maximum, but lopping off the top ten percent of the fitness function. What Nintendo should do is have one exercise, Basic Breathing is my suggestion, that lets you stand on the balance board and see how far off centre your actual balance is.

Summer Reading.

August 2, 2009

Edited my July 8 entry to add Clifford Stoll’s “The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage”

Summer Reading

July 8, 2009

This is a short list of MIS-associated fiction and nonfiction that I made up for my students last spring.

Keep in mind that these are books about how the system works, not about specific systems, so the fact that some of them are over 30 years old doesn’t matter. Some are available online in .pdf format. The first three are descriptive. The rest, more textbook-like.

The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage, Clifford Stoll, 1989
A classic description of how a 75 cent error in a computer use charge ended with the breakup of an East German spy ring.

Soul of a New Machine, Tracy Kidder, 1981
What it’s like in the trenches

Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can’t Get a Date, Robert X. Cringely, 1992
The early days in Silicon Valley

Death March, Edward Yourdon, 2003
More life in the trenches

Mythical Man-Month, Frederick Brooks, 1975, 1995
Managing software development

Systems Thinking, Systems Practice, Peter Checkland, 1979, 1999
Soft systems approach.

Multiple Perspectives for Decision Making, Hal Linstone, 1984
Technical, organizational, personal.

The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge, 1990
Business dynamics

The Jargon File, Eric S. Raymond (ESR), et al. 2003
AKA, The Hackers Dictionary. a serious dictionary, maintained online at:
Go for the words, stay for the descriptions of hacker culture.

Just a few of the classics.

Shockwave Rider, John Brunner, 1975
The SF novel that defined the idea of a computer worm

Neuromancer, William Gibson, 1984
The SF novel that defined cyberspace
Also: Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive

Snow Crash, Niel Stephenson, 1992
The SF novel that defined Second Life.

Diamond Age, Niel Stephenson, 1995
Ubiquitous computing and nanomachines.
Can’t do it the way he thought, because a carbon cloud is explosive.

Cryptonomicon, Niel Stephenson, 1999
SF/Historical. A good take on what data centers might be like tomorrow, combined with a pretty good fictionalized history of computers and cryptology in WWII.

Overclocked, Cory Doctorow, 2007
Short stories. Not written in a balloon, no matter what XKCD says.

see also the series beginning here (and what’s _your_ daughter done recently?):

…and speaking of daughters, here’s Girl Genius. It’s steampunk and not cyber, but who cares? It’s working on Vol 7 right now, but you need to start at the beginning, before they invented color:

or you could read a short story
(but stop on page 7 or you will drop into the main storyline and be beset by spoilers)

Or, if that’s too girly for you, try Megatokyo. Two gamers in Japan. It’s joke-of-the-day up until about strip number 100 or so, and then it gets a plot. They are on strip 1200 now.