Archive for March, 2009

Why is buying music so hard?

So, I want to buy the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album.  I k now it came out this week.  I go to their website and see I can buy it there.  And amazingly, it’s actually available in several digital formats, all unencumbered by DRM.  I can even get 4 bonus acoustic tracks for just 3 dollars more.  Sweet.  I go to buy it, and find out I have to go through their web forms.  I’m lazy, and don’t like typing in all my info so this actually represents a pretty large barrier for me.  “No problem,” I think, “I’ll just buy it at amazon.”  No such luck though.  They have it, but I can’t get the bonus tracks (at least not without pre-ording a CD for $18.)  So, end result: I’ve spent the last 2 hours surfing the net and watching TV instead of buying/listening to an album.

Admittedly, this is a thousand times better than it was just 5 years ago.  But really, why should I have to input my credit card info everytime I want to make one of these small payments.  I actually am lazy enough that I won’t buy something if I have to enter that info.  This is why Amazon rocks.  It doesn’t present any of these barriers.  Ah well, I’ll probably buy it anyway, but I’m waiting for the day when I don’t need to keep doing this.

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March 12, 2009 at 9:14 pm Leave a comment

This is so me.

I was this close to responding to a stupid blog post with a long, well researched reply, that should have totally eviserated any response the blogger could have had.  Then I realized it would take way too much of my time, and wouldn’t actually convince anyone.  Why does XKCD describe my life so well?

(And in case anyone is wondering, no I don’t actually subscribe to the linked blog.  Seriously, “Managing L’unix”?  Idiot!)

March 8, 2009 at 4:26 pm Leave a comment

What’s wrong with the news?

A lot has been written about whats wrong with the MSM lately.  They’ve failed to respond to the fact that they no longer have a monopoly on how people get their news.  The rise of citizen journalism in the form of blogs, etc. is driving them out of business.  I agree with PZ Myers that the best way for the newspapers et al. to stay in business is to become what the bloggers can’t: professional.  Do real in-depth reporting, researching and fact-checking (OMG, do they need fact checking!)  Yes, i know it’ll be difficult.  They will actually have to become experts at a subject in order to fully report on it.  And yes, it’s going to be hard.  And yes, it’s going to take money, money that they probably don’t have now.  But people will pay for value, and newspapers need to provide that value to stay afloat.

Just look at the recent coverage of the economic crisis and the stimulus package passed by the Obama administration.  For the weeks that it was being debated, the MSM had almost no economists on their shows.  Instead they just had a bunch of (mostly republican) talking heads.  This isn’t journalism.  It’s entertainment, and thats not what people want out of their news organizations (I hope.)  They need to remember why it is that they’re called the fourth estate.  They can do things that blogs will never be able to do.  I think the best way I can say it is that they’re supposed to be journalists.  Not news men, not reporters, but journalists.  Live up to the title.

March 8, 2009 at 4:15 pm Leave a comment

We can rebuild him. We have the technology.

I’m always amused when I go to the doctor and I see the inevitable bookshelf of old-school files behind the receptionist.  I can’t help but wonder if these people have heard of these things called “computers” and everything they could do to help them sort and organize their files.  Maybe I underestimate the discomfort most “normal” (read: non-programmers) have with computer technology.

With that background, I’m pretty excited about Obama’s call to implement health care reform, and as part of that his push for electronic health records.  Beyond the basic efficiencies of better organization and backup, there is the potential for communications between offices and insurance companies.  Imagine going to a new doctor and not having to fill out a form listing your medical history, known allergies, current medications, etc.  It really boggles me why this hasn’t happened already.

Every time I’ve gone to a doctor, they’ve taken a very basic history, but nothing more detailed than that, and certainly no more thorough than what I can recall.  Wouldn’t we all benefit from a lifetime medical history?  Why should doctors have to rely on my limited understanding of my past ailments, rather than the opinions and diagnoses of my previous doctors?

But even beyond this benefit, I think the potential for discovering new cure’s and drug interactions is the real hidden benefit here.  Imagine have access to the (anonymous) records of every American in the country?  What symptoms they have, what the diagnosis was, how it was treated, what drugs they were taking, what side effects they reported?  How many times have we seen a drug previously prescribed for one ailment suddenly re-emerge as an effective treatment for another?  I think this is potentially a much more important aspect of electronic health records.  What kind of treatments and discoveries can be made when such a database of health statistics is compiled?  Something like Google’s Flu Trends is just the start.  What if we could pinpoint potential environmental health hazards based on the medical data coming from a particular community?  I used to live in LA, and it’s well known that the incidence of lung-related health problems is much higher there.  What else could be affected?

One could even imagine this data being used to enact legislation, and certainly be used to test the counter the effectiveness claims of pharmaceutical companies.  No wonder there seems to be so much opposition to this, beyond the usual cries of “socialism” and “big government.”

I really hope Obama succeeds in his health care reforms.  This is going to be a very exciting time to be alive.

March 1, 2009 at 1:39 pm Leave a comment


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