Mar 27, 2014

because science

A couple of 'we are living in the future' posts in science magazines this week that are worth reading.

Gunshot victims to be suspended between life and death
This one is bordering on putting people into cryogenic sleep. It's only temporary and short-lived but you could imagine this being a stepping off point for strategies involving space travel.

Scientists Create Synthetic Yeast Chromosome
It's not full blown organism creation but we've moved from small snippets of DNA addition and deletion to large customized DNA sequencing.

Mar 20, 2014

drunk baby

What is most interesting about this is that the incapacitated muscle control of a drunk probably very closely approximates the underdeveloped muscle control of a baby. And come to think of it, having to take care of a baby is like having to take care of a drunk friend; lots of bodily and non-bodily fluids to wipe up.

Mar 17, 2014


I had my first real bonafide earthquake this morning. And it was awesome. I have been dying to be in a really legit earthquake for a long time. While I've been in some tiny ones I didn't know they were earthquakes until after the fact.  While some people are scared of them I have no real fear. The odds of death or injury are incredibly small. The massive Loma Prieta earthquake killed only 63 people. Remarkable.

Anyway this was a tiny 4.4-4.7 centered in Westwood which isn't that far from us. My wife started yelling 'earthquake' with mild panic in her voice. But I just laid in bed and soaked it in. It was exhilarating. The whole house was swaying back and forth. It started with a bump and then these swaying oscillations came immediately afterwards. I would have preferred to be standing on hard ground. I want to feel something immovable, move. But this was good too.

Mar 11, 2014

castlight health

I mentioned before that Castlight Health might be the most important company you've never heard of. Here's why.

When you want to buy a fridge, you read some reviews, check Consumer Reports, ask your friends, go down to Sears or wherever and look at them and play around with them, check prices, compare prices, etc. The natural outlet of these activities is that competition exists.

What do you do when you need a colonoscopy? You go to your doctor who recommends you need a colonoscopy and then he/she recommends a specialist based on your insurance and you go there and they do the procedure and a bill is sent to your insurance company and you may or may not get a bill.

See the difference?

Castlight is trying to change that. Here's what they do. They go to a big company like Wal-Mart and say give us your healthcare data. They connect to this data and now can see what people are paying for colonoscopies and they can ask the employees to rate the service and check on how well it was done and so forth. Now imagine Castlight has this data nationwide. What Castlight really does is allow employees to make choices by presenting cost and performance data on healthcare. Wal-Mart might say, "Look. We'll pay for colonoscopy costs up to $500. You pick up the rest. Here are a bunch of providers that charge less than $500. You want to go to Gold Star Supreme Colonoscopies 'R' Us? It'll cost you $200 extra. Your choice."

What this does is introduce competition and it will shatter the healthcare industry and they know it. I was lucky enough to chat on the phone with one of the founders last week and he was in it from the beginning to bring down the entire healthcare industry one brick at a time.

Here's how the incumbents will try to stop it. They have 3 levers at their disposal.

  1. Government. Lobby, lobby, lobby. Probably the most effective tactic.
  2. Create impediments to Castlight getting the data. They already do this. Healthcare providers will serve employers but they also may set up contractual limits about what they can do with that data. I'm sure this was the case with Wal-Mart. My guess is Wal-Mart said, 'Give us the data or we are leaving your healthcare system with all of our hundreds of thousands of employees." They caved but may not for smaller companies.
  3. Byzantine data services and storage. They already do this. Castlight spends an inordinate amount of time actually hooking up the data from employers to their systems. Colonoscopies might be classified under many different codes and subcodes. It's expensive and time consuming work and it could just bankrupt the company.
Why would I be hopeful in the face of this?

Because Castlight just raised their IPO price offering. In I-banker parlance that means there is demand for this company. Others see what I see. We'll have to wait this one out though. It's going to take a long time for them to make a dent.

Mar 10, 2014

american food

American food as viewed by foreigners.

Things that are considered very weird by foreigners:

  • Peanut butter & root beer - I fell in love with root beer when I came over)
  • American cheese - Problem is there is no substitute for American cheese when it comes to a hamburger
  • Pop tarts - Agreed. These things are nasty
  • Kraft mac and cheese - Ditto
  • Doggy bags - From our Puritan background I suppose. Seems like a waste to throw food away
  • Chicken and waffles - I've never had these but can't see why they would be bad
  • Tea heated in microwave - Fucking Brits and their tea bullshit
  • Ranch dressing - Agreed. It should be called Rancid dressing
  • Corn (apparently it is largely fed to pigs) - Hard to not like corn
  • Hot pockets - Agreed
  • Sausage gravy & biscuits (the milk part and then adding meat) - It does sound weird when put that way but yum
  • Dumplings (American, disappointing for the Chinese) - I haven't had Occidental dumplings in a long time but I love them.
  • Desserts with mint (should only be for toothpaste) - I agree fully on this unless the mint is actually fresh mint leaves
  • Spam - Ugh. I bought this for the first time a few months ago and no one in our family could stomach more than 2 bites.
  • Donuts (for breakfast seems weird) - It's not weird but it is terrible for you
  • Pumpkin pie (elicits strong reactions) - Pumpkin pie doesn't do much for me
  • Miracle Whip (or is it hwhip) - Second only to Spam for nastiness
  • Cheese in a can - I'll admit I have no idea what this is


I've talked a number of times about shaving. I have a fairly thick facial growth and sensitive skin so it's a topic I think about now and again. I started using a new technique. Doubling up on one old technique and one new one. To what I would consider pretty dramatic results. It's pretty simple really and so intuitive that I'm a little ashamed to admit that I hadn't just thought of it (I stumbled upon it).

So the first technique is one I've used since college. Prior to this new method I shaved with no shaving cream directly under the shower head. This one I thought about and mechanically it works because the shower cleans away any whiskers as soon as they are cut. It works well but there can be some irritation. It also makes sure that your whiskers stay soft which is probably the most important thing to do before shaving.

Okay the second technique is so utterly obvious. Why are people using shaving cream to lubricate the skin when shaving? Soap can be a lubricant but it's not a great one and it irritates skin. What do we use to lubricate all things? Oil. I use coconut oil. In fact I use coconut oil to wash and even clean my teeth (oil pulling). That's probably another blog post. So I'm washing my face with coconut oil an then go right into shaving and notice, OMG, this is great. Combined with doing it under the shower head and just perfection. No nicks, no cuts, no irritation, face is already moisturized when I'm done.

Pro-tip for women: buy men's blades. They are better quality because, the face.

Feb 25, 2014


Castlight Health may be the most important company you've never heard of. This company is in a position to utterly change the entire healthcare landscape. It'll take time and will most likely fail but this company is a brilliant moonshot. I'll write more about it later but the idea is simple.

It wants to make healthcare pricing transparent. So that companies and individuals can actually make economically rational decisions about where to get services and save money. And in doing so create massive competition within the oligopolistic healthcare industry.

It's fucking awesome. Everyone should be rooting for this company.

Feb 20, 2014

Feb 19, 2014

nighty night

This is fascinating. In short, camping, or perhaps more correctly, the removal of modern electronics (including light bulbs) from your life resets your sleep patterns. This I can totally buy into as I always feel great after camping. Put away those phones!


Not a bad birthday present