Fire Protection 2.0

October 24, 2007

I love that quote about history repeating itself, especially if the event only happens every year. 

The talk of the week has been the absurd imbalance in property taxes and how everyone forgot they were coming.  I can’t wait for the legislation that requires impounds instead of leaving it for someone to save on their own.  Good thing you can put in on a credit card!

Now we have the Southern California fires and because it’s been a few years, we didn’t bother to figure out a new way to fight them.  New delivery mechanism?  New chemical?  Nope, still got hundreds of guys in trucks with limited water supply and shovels.  That’s right, shovels.  Maybe they’d be more comfortable in a covered wagon and burlap sack.  And once those guys kill themselves, then we try to drop some water or pepto bismol and get it over with.

I don’t understand why we put a single person on the ground.  We’ve got trained military pilots that can drop a bomb from 10,000 ft with precision, so if we let them get within 1,000 ft they’d probably not hit too many houses.  Since the best attack is always from the air, but is the most difficult to do because we have to fly too close to the ground, seems to me we should develop a delivery system for the pepto and be done with it.

Believe it or not, Boeing is at least trying.  Of course, the better solution is a bigger container, possibly with a compressed air timed explosion that could disperse the pepto once the retardant bomb was at the optimal height for coverage.   It can’t be that difficult, and it’s far cheaper than all the overtime the ground crews are racking up. 

We can chat about this in two years when the fires are back and we’re still sending firefighters to risk their lives.


Analysis of 23andme by a Genotyping Expert

September 14, 2007

The second biggest blunder in Google’s history, only to the Google Jet having access to a private Federal runway, is the 23andme conflict of interest.

Conflicts aside, it’s always helpful to know how what these genome startups are doing, so I asked an expert in the field of genotyping and genetics (who is open to new consulting projects).

How hard is it to do genotyping via SNP?
It isn’t hard at all until you try to do a lot of it.  In research, you look at SNPs pretty regularly and it is very easy when looking at one at a time.

Trying to look at all the SNPs in a genome at once is a lot harder. You couldn’t possibly look at them all so you use informatics tools to define informative sets of SNPs then ignore the rest. This still leaves many many SNPs to look at so this is cutting edge technology.

What’s the benefit to knowing this genetic information?
Countless things you can do with this info.

First of all this is the beginning of personalized medicine. Once we have this information for large numbers of people we will be able to figure out why one medicine works for one patient and not for another and doctors will be able to better treat people with this information.

That is the good stuff but you will also be far better at predicting possible health problems, which is great for preventative medicine, but is scary if your health care provider gets this info and decides to charge you more or not cover those things you are at risk for.

Another interesting but dangerous application is precisely defining peoples ethnic makeup. Once we know this information for many populations of people we will be able to say for example that someone is 18% Scottish 42% Irish 27% German and 13% English. Cool, but what if someone decides to descriminate against you because you aren’t 100% caucasian? And there are many more things to do with the data as well, no wonder Google and Genetech are involved.

Has the human genome been mapped?
Yeah that has been done for about 5 years with tweaks every now and then. It was originally defined for about 6 individuals. The original effort took A LOT of work and money. Technology has been improving and price is coming down quickly. The cost of DNA sequencing/genotyping roughly follows Moore’s Law.

What’s a genome?
Yeah every organism has a genome. Every cell has the same DNA as all the other cells in your body. So since we know the entire genome for the 6 people I mentioned above we can just look at the SNPs for everyone else and merge the two to know each individuals genome.

How much does this cost?
In a lab it could be done for $2 per SNP. I would guess 23andme is looking at 10s of thousands of SNPs, so the lab price is $50,000. There is a huge economy of scale here with new equipment and custom software for processing and analytics, but their price will likely be very low.

Apple Announces $200 Credit for iPhone Buyers

September 12, 2007

It’s a bit odd that it takes Apple a week to figure out how to give their best customers a worthless $100 credit for buying the iPhone.  It’s amazing the amount of brand equity Apple can carry through such a major alienation of their core customer base. 

No, Apple really didn’t announce a $200 credit for early iPhone adopters, but 99% of Apple loyalists still believe it will happen this week.

Google Reader Image Bug

July 8, 2007

Ok, geek time:

I don’t know why you can’t search google reader, I’ve only wanted to do it 100+ times. 

Since Google isn’t going to add search, maybe they can fix the Google Reader Image Bug.  You’ll notice in Google Reader that images are often not displayed at their intended size.  They’re shrunken, garbled, and otherwise un-readable.

Unfortunately, the image usually tells the story or makes the money (ad images have the same problem – wonder why you’re not converting Dell?). 

Here’s the typical problem:


See that square of gibber gabber?  That’s an ad unit that Dell is paying good money to Techcrunch for, and getting nothing in return.

Now this is how Dell would like the ad to display:


*Google Reader Image Bug workaround: 
When you click on an item in Reader, it automatically marks the item as read.  All you have to do is uncheck the “Mark as read” checkbox, and the image will display as originally intended like magic. 

You’ve Made It Big Time

June 9, 2007

Techcrunch reports that the addictive game makers have been collecting online advertising revenues and plan to quit their day jobs and create a startup

Since I tested this game, purely in a viral marketing context, and could never score well evaluate it completely, I was encouraged by the after market enhancement available.  When someone goes to the effort of hacking your flash game, you’ve made it big time.

So the startup is a logical extension… I hope one of them has a marketing strategy.  When the online advertising dollars start to drop, hopefully they have another game that’s just as addictive.  That’s not likely, but there’s always the option to do custom games for organizations, develop a point and click builder for similar games, or even do something silly like charge for access to older games.

Birthdays & Business

June 7, 2007

why are birthdays better when you’re younger?
Kids often have elaborate birthday parties and celebrate birthday milestones than adults.  It’s because they’re getting older faster.  Relative to their age, kids get older faster than adults, and therefore they become more anticipated and celebrated.  A 10 year old you turns 11 gets 10% older.  A 50 year old has to turn 55 to get 10% older, hence the reason why we probably celebrate 5 year birthdays more regularly for the older folks.  

The same goes for the growth of a small business.  When you go from $1000 to $2000 per month, or $100k to $200k per year, there’s a celebration that ensues.  Unfortunately, even if you add $1M to revenue, from $5M to $6M, the percentage makes a celebration overstated compared to the good ol’ days.