Do Cells Have an IP Address Yet?

Ali-Ansary_12

In the future, implanted chips will have the ability to stop food absorption when caloric intake reaches 2200. Cells in our forearm will be able to monitor our glucose levels and adjust our insulin appropriately. These implantable cells or “chips” have their own IP address with their own circuitry that is connected to a network 24/7. Through this network, cells communicate with real-time super computers to synthesize the next step for an individual’s body. If Dr. Anthony Atala can utilize 3D printers to create a new kidney, then it is only a matter of time before we can incorporate the circuitry within an organ necessary to monitor its function wirelessly.

This was the future I was challenged to paint in my talk at TEDMED 2012 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. As TEDMED 2013 commences, I ask myself, where are we one year later?

A caveat: The following are simple overviews on novel technologies I had been tracking over the past year and does no justice to the many amazing leaps we have made in innovative science and medicine during this time.

Implantable Sensors
Thomas Goetz beautifully discusses in The Atlantic that diabetics, although “loath” it, have been self-monitoring for years. Goetz goes on to say that the“….distaste falls into three categories: self monitoring for diabetes is an unremitting and unforgiving labor; the tools themselves are awkward and sterile; and the combination of these creates a constant sense of anxiety and failure.”

However, what if we had an implantable sensor that simply monitors an individual’s glucose? In 2010, Dr. David Gough from the University of California, San Diego demonstrated that you could potentially monitor an individual’s glucose by wireless telemetry. A patient can be in San Francisco with his or her physician having access to the data in Los Angeles.

And what if the immune system renders the chip incapable of functioning? Dr. Melissa Grunlan at the University of Texas A&M has been working to develop a self cleaning mechanism that prevents implantable glucose sensors from being “shielded” by the body’s immune system.

Dr. Giovanni de Micheli and Dr. Sandro Carrara at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland have developed a 1.4 cm implantable device that can measure proteins and organic acids in real time. Imagine a signal being sent to your cell phone, and your doctor’s phone, indicating an increase in cardiac enzymes- potentially a heart attack. This device functions on a battery-less system that connects to a patch resting on the surface of the skin.

Natural anatomy acts as a barrier to implantable batteries. Yet, as Dr. Ada Poon and her team at Stanford University have developed a medical device that can be powered wirelessly using electromagnetic radio waves. Now, the tiny devices we envisioned can circulate into the depths of our vascular system without fear of losing power. Reminds me of “The Magic School Bus” episode when Ms. Frizzle takes her class on a field trip through the human body.

A personal favorite of mine: At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Konstantina Stankovic has demonstrated the ability to use the natural electric potential from electrolytes in the inner ear to power devices that can monitor biological activity in people with auditory and balance issues.

Early detection is fundamental in many of these devices, especially for cancer patients who have aggressive diseases prone to metastasis. Take, for example patients with malignant melanoma, one of the deadliest cancers and one that has seen little progress in its treatment. Dr. Shuang Hou and his team at UCLA have demonstrated a proof of concept of a “nanovelcro” chip that can capture highly specific and isolated circulating tumor cells.

And what about regulating food intake and nutrient absorption? Intrapace has created Abiliti, an implantable gastric stimulator and food detection system that is implanted into the stomach. As soon as food is detected, it stimulates the stomach to create a sense of fullness. I can see eventually a system that can monitor an individual’s caloric input over, say, 24 hours. This would allow us to eat normally without overindulging.
Wearable Sensors
A quick mention on a hot topic. As popular discussions emphasize trends like the Nike+ FuelBand, one step closer to wearable sensors are what Dr. John Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has developed: An electronic sensor that can be directly printed onto your skin using a rubber stamp and last for up to two weeks as highlighted in MIT’s Technology Review. The potential for this goes beyond saying.

The Fine Line
This is just a short list of exciting new innovations. Of course many people may be taken aback by such technologies, which is fine. The purpose of my talk was to create discussion while painting a potential future that may be upon us soon. It is important for all of us to be active in our own healthcare. If we aren’t, then someone else will be.

Knowledge about our glucose or hemoglobin and hematocrit in our time is just as important as knowing whether or not to fuel our cars with unleaded or diesel. But we still need an expert mechanic’s help. Let me explain. I do believe that growth in this field, like anything else in medicine in the 21st century, will need to be not only through adoption by the empowered and informed patient, but also via healthcare providers.

Old mechanics would drive a problematic car themselves to assess damage. Simple things such as hearing a funny sound or seeing the car pull to the left would give them enough information to diagnose the problem. Today the engineering of a car is so sophisticated that sensors continuously monitoring the “health” of the engine alert the driver when something is wrong. That unwelcome signal – a picture of a wrench, perhaps, or a flat tire – notifies the driver and the mechanic what part has gone wrong, what’s wrong with it, and what needs to be done.

So the mechanic had to evolve the way he (or she) fixed a car. The physician today is much like that mechanic. While the human body is far more sophisticated than even a brand new Mercedes Benz, newly trained physicians need to adjust how they care for their patients’ health.

Growth in this field, like anything else in medicine in the 21st century, will need to be not only through adoption by the e-patient, but also via tech-savvy healthcare providers.

Original presentation at TEDMED 2012

This piece also appears on the The Huffington Post, TEDMED.com, and The Health Care Blog.

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America’s Healthcare Crisis: A Prescription for Breaking the Cycle

Originally published in the Huffington Post.

By Jacob Scott MD, Sandeep Kishore PhD, Ali Ansary

At the turn of the 20th century, we built a healthcare system on responding to acute, curative, episodic issues. This system saw the eradication of many diseases and the advent of vaccinations and new treatments. The model was truly developed to be a “sickcare system,” which was what we needed at the time, and saw huge successes.

Fast forward 100 years and Americans are sicker than ever — but with different illnesses. What’s more, there is finally a national consensus that our healthcare system is broken. With increasingly tragic consequences, the reactionary medical paradigm has not provided the preventive care or chronic illness management that our culture needs. Healthcare spending currently consumes 17 percent of our GDP and without a radical shift in thinking, this number may grow even higher.

Sadly, patients are not the only ones suffering. The status quo is breeding a morale crisis among our nation’s doctors. If you asked one of the many thousands of medical students who are just beginning their fall semester why they chose medicine, many of them would give you confused, anxious responses about the field they are entering. This does not bode well for the health of future generations.

Last Spring, we met at TEDMED, an annual “grand gathering” in Washington, DC where forward thinkers from all sectors explore the promise of technology and the potential of human achievement as it pertains to health and medicine. Here, we presented our respective positions. One of us, Ali, argued that new technologies will actively change our health behavior. Another, Sunny, argued that we needed systems thinking in public health, focusing on the causes of the causes. Yet another, Jacob, argued for stopping the “imaginectomies” and fostering creativity in medical training by rethinking selection criteria and curricula for entrance to medical school.

This led to conversations across the country — with trainees and senior leaders — with all trying to imagine (and reimagine) what would be different for this generation, the generation of millennials (and beyond). What are the expectations that we, and our patients, have about how we practice medicine in the 21st century?

The short answer is we don’t know yet — but the conversation has begun.

On Sept. 10, an intimate discussion was co-sponsored by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and the Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network in Boston on medical education in the 21st century. Here we began to define four questions:

1. What should be the image of the 21st century physician?
There is no doubt that health and medicine attract the most dynamic thinkers in the world, many of whom come with a love of science and art, a yearning to improve health and well-being and an appreciation for thinking differently. To us, the creative enterprise of imagining what could be is a central competency of the 21st century physician. It provides a new platform, value and principle that allows us to unlock gains in technology, in public health, in discovery and in mapping new connections to the full gamut of knowledge that can help help our species not just to survive, but to thrive. We think it should be someone who is, above all, creative, imaginative and compassionate.

2. What should be the new quality standards for training?
We think they should be the ability to work on a team (to put collective rather than individual interests first) and to always focus on the needs of the patient. We believe that protected time for exploring creative endeavours in medical school, graduate medical education and in practice, is essential for transforming our health. Taking a cue from Google’s successful policy, we recommend that medical schools create the space for students to spend at least 20 percent of their time exploring. And for those who doubt that we can spare 20 percent of the time during the medical school curriculum, we suggest that at least this much of the curriculum is now no longer worth committing to memory, in our new world defined by information at our finger tips.

3. What are the models?
The traditional classroom model where one professor lectures to a room of over 100 students is changing. We think that providing didactic lectures online would allow students to maintain focus on their core medical education while freeing up time to discuss relevant topics not always covered in their textbooks. Take, for example, longitudinal ‘concentrations’ such as the Yale System where there are no required exams, no mandatory courses, a pass-fail curriculum and a requirement for a thesis. At Duke, the second year of medical school focuses on core clinical competencies while the third and fourth years allow students to explore clinical investigations and complete elective rotations. We think these models begin to provide the requisite space for creativity.

4. What does the disruptive innovation look like?
With viral movements via Youtube, the ability for students to create their own content and mentor each other online, and new platforms like TEDMED, which challenge medical standards, we have a new way of sharing information — of creating a vision and executing it together. Students themselves could create curricular content — they could become each others’ teachers in partnership with physician educators.

Conversations like this must continue — not only at places like TEDMED or the IHI, but inside classrooms and teaching hospitals, between mentors and students, and between patients and physicians.

As we adopt a 21st century vision of where we are headed, we must adapt and adjust our training so that it meets the challenges facing the patients of tomorrow. Creativity — the spark behind imagining the structure of DNA, in vitro fertilization, the pacemaker — must be valued to unlock major health gains. It will be these new innovations and new models of healthcare and delivery that will continue to push medicine forward.

Even as physicians reimagine the practice of medicine, we must adhere to the same principles that we swore an oath to — to practice medicine ethically and honestly, and to serve humanity. And unless we, as healthcare professionals, take the time to do this reimagining, it will be done by those who have not taken the same oath, and whose approach to reimagining medicine is driven by other motivating factors.

We submit that the best source to imagine the new mental model is from within medical education and it must be accompanied by forward thinking changes in practice and delivery. We need to stop the “imaginectomies” and help, collectively, step by step, to make creativity, imagination and compassion the 21st century standards of medical education.

This century, your future and your health may just depend on it.

Share with us your vision of a 21st century doctor at
www.tomorrowsdoctor.org.

Dr. Jacob Scott is a research fellow at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Oxford University Centre for Mathematical Biology. Sandeep Kishore is an MD/PhD student at Weill Cornell Medical College/Rockefeller University/Sloan Kettering Institute. Ali Ansary is a medical student at Rocky Vista University.

A New Field of Medicine: Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine

From an op-ed in the Huffington Post (original text):

Movember (formerly November) is a month of reflection and recognizing the importance of men’s health issues. Of the more than 8,000 diagnosed with testicular cancer every year in the United States, the peak age group is the 20-39 year olds.

How can a 24-year-old male have testicular cancer?

Traditionally medicine has been divided into pediatrics, adult and geriatric medicine. Today the way we provide age-appropriate care is shifting with the rise of a new field of medicine focusing specifically on adolescents and young adults, age 15-39, beginning with cancer treatment.

According to the National Cancer Institute, over the past 20 years while overall survival rates for cancer have increased for all age groups, the 15-39 age group has experienced little improvement in cancer survival rates seen by older and younger peers. Variables affecting this survival plateau range from limits in access to care/clinical trials, different biology, unique psychosocial issues as well as the overall mentality of thinking one is too young to have cancer.

Recently, the Colorado Medical Society placed itself at the forefront of changing the way medicine provides care by passing Res-7A-AM11, which recognizes the importance of adolescent and young adults (AYA) with cancer, and importantly focusing on the newly-created International Charter of Rights for Young People with Cancer. Res-7A-AM11 is the first resolution supported by a collective group of physicians from diverse specialties all recognizing that any young patient of theirs — whether seeing a family doctor or pulmonologist — is at risk for cancer. Additionally, the charter recognizes the converse; that any one of their young patients may be a survivor of cancer, which can have lasting impacts on fertility, increased risk for secondary cancers or physical/mental changes. All of these concerns can and should affect the approach a physician uses to treat their young patient.

To sum up the AYA concerns expressed in the international charter, medicine needs to provide age-appropriate care and continued care. This isn’t a new concept, just one that appropriately responds to age-defined needs. Leaders such as Dr. Leonard Sender, director of the combined Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Program University of California, Irvine and CHOC Children’s Hospital, have taken the first steps in establishing the peer-reviewed Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology and complementary professional society.

In order to increase survivorship for a generation that has fallen through the gaps in medical practice, the medical community needs stronger scientific research, improvements in the way psychosocial issues are addressed and self-empowerment. The medical community needs to increase understanding of the adolescent and young adult age group and their unique risk factors for cancer. Along with continued education, clinical and epidemiological research must improve in order for the medical community to understand what makes this age group so unique.

On the patient side, the AYA community generally believes they are invincible and will not succumb to the diseases that affect “little kids and older people.” This is a myth we must unfortunately dispel. Encouraging this age group to create a sense of ownership and self advocacy can be difficult. The majority of AYAs are using social media and different forms of communication. As traditional modes of communications no longer are ideal platforms for outreach to young people, so too are traditional methods of how medical care is delivered inside and outside of the clinic. The future of empowering young people to understand their body best can come through emerging technologies that focus on improved communication between a physician and their young patients.

A health care provider’s responsibilities go beyond the clinic; they must be partners in developing age-appropriate programs in order to ensure the survival of cancer patients — particularly pediatrics and adolescents through to young adults. Just as important, there needs to be a sense of ownership from adolescent and young adult cancer patients, so that their voice is not blurred by misdiagnosis or delayed treatment. Ownership begins with patients taking control of their health and starting with the simple questions to their physicians, “Did you know there is an adolescent and young adult cancer segment called AYA?”


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The Real Superheroes are still in Comic Books…

“His comic books have captured the imagination of so many young people with superheroes who embodies the tolerance and teachings of Islam.

… Superman and Batman have reached out to their Muslim counter parts…. And I hear they are making progress too.”

- President Barak Obama, 2010

Last summer I had an opportunity to spend part it at the Columbia Business School (CBS) in NYC where I was part of the Rothschild Fellowship. During this time, I had an opportunity to meet social entrepreneurs from the UK and France,  continued fostering a passion and had an opportunity to expand my cultural and religious beliefs.

On an early New York morning we hard a guest speaker to begin our day- Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, a former CBS alumni. Here was Dr. Mutawa, dress shirt tucked into his jeans, a glowing aura of passion and only small patches of grey in his beard that would hint at his age.

Over the next couple hours Dr. Mutawa spent some time speaking to us about his creation of  the 99….. the world’s first superheroes based on Islamic culture and society.

At first I was a little hesitant. But that was quick to change. What would eventually be Dr. Mutawa’s TED Talk presentation at Oxford the following week, we were introduced to a group of superheroes that have brought a complete different identity to the Islamic world.

Dr. Mutawa’s TED Talk- must see talk on the history of the 99 and how it has evolved:

I was so thrilled to hear about this concept!

Just a few weeks ago DC comics released the first of six comics where the the Justice League of America (… Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, Aquaman…) began partnering with the 99 (…Dr. Ramzi Razem, Rughal, Widad the loving, Jami the assembler…).

It is not the first time that powerful superheroes put their egos to the side to over come evil. In fact, I remember as a kid when Marvel’s Spiderman teamed up with Strom and Beast from X-men and on a diferent occasion with the Fantastic Four.

Tonight I sat down and read the comic. Although I remember it taking me much longer to read a comic book, I was so excited that for the first time in my life, the superheroes I grew up admiring have refreshed my youth by continuing my admiration of the ability for these individuals to over come evil together.

Sounds chessy. But its not.

We may be too old to read comics, but every kid grew up on comics at some point in their life. Our childhood comic heroes are today’s Hollywood superstars. I can only hope that today’s real heroes can learn from those we look up to as kids and overcome their differences to truly appreciate the beauty that exists in all cultures and religions.

The truth is that one superhero can make a difference. A team of superheroes – with different abilities- can make an lasting impact.

To end, I wanted to show a couple quick snap photos of the first time where we see such a unique relationship between superheroes being created.

Justice League of America

Superman meets part of the 99


Introducing the 99


| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Get Fat and Feel good about. Eat Rice Pudding…

First off, I am by no means a food critic because as many would know I will nearly eat anything… as well as try anything. However, what I will not deny are my sweet teeth. I heard about Rice to Rices from Sarah who told me to make a quick stop while I was in SoHo, NYC.

Naturally anything with rice gets me quite excited. I love Afghan rice (by far the best rice in the world) and of course the delicious rice pudding for dessert has always been an amazing choice (very biased opinion).

What I really liked about Rice to Riches is the very modern design in a great area of the city. The layout, the positive affirmations and the various selections allow for anyone to feel good about eating rice pudding. The best part of this concept was the uniqueness of finding a niche dessert and popularizing it. I expect nothing less when I visit NYC. I did sample many of the flavors, which made me quite full before even getting to my own dish. There were some solid flavors (pictures below). Choices of topings were nice, but I am an old school guy who likes his rice puddings plain.

I definitely recommend to get a solo and split it with a friend. However, if you are like me, then get a solo, eat part of it and save the rest for later that night or the next day. You will be craving it.

the final product:

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

What’s the Deal with International Textbooks…

It’s been a while since I had an opportunity to write some thoughts out as I have been adjusting back into school mode. Aside from learning how to take exams again and making new friends, the added stress of tuition seems to be the biggest impact on the pockets of many students, including mine. So do I really want to pay $150 for a text book when I can get it for $80 on Ebay? At the same time, I am not convinced yet that the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) will make textbooks for college/graduate students more affordable than what we can find through other sources…. i.e. ebay.

According to Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), the new law, which went into effect on July 1st, contains three main provisions:

1. Publishers must disclose textbook price and revision information to faculty during the marketing process. A study by the Student PIRGs found that such details were often left out; 77% of the professors surveyed said publishers rarely or never offered textbook prices unasked.

“Professors share students’ concern about cost and generally would prefer to assign less expensive books,” said Dr. D. Steven White, Professor of Marketing & International Business at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. “The new law empowers professors to readily identify lower-cost options that suit their instructional needs.”

2. Publishers must offer unbundled versions of textbooks. “Bundling,” or the practice of packing textbooks with CDs, pass-codes and other ancillaries that often go unused, can increase costs 10-50% according to PIRG research.  From now on, students will have the option to purchase only the items they need.

3. Colleges must include the list of assigned textbooks during course registration. With advance notice, students can plan ahead for the full cost of their next term, and they have time to shop around for the best deals on their books.

But I am going to take this one step further…

A few weeks ago I posted via my Posterous an article in the NY Times that quite frankly caught my interest. The article goes on to write “To the despair of the textbook publishers who are still trying to block such sales, the reimporting of American texts from overseas has become far easier in recent years, thanks both to Internet sites that offer instant access to foreign book prices, and to a 1998 Supreme Court ruling that federal copyright law does not protect American manufacturers from having the products they arranged to sell overseas at a discount shipped back for sale in the United States.”

The  article goes further to cite some interesting numbers:

Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry AMAZON.COM: $146.15 AMAZON.CO.UK: $71.53 DIFFERENCE: $74.62

Physics, Volume 1 AMAZON.COM: $93.75 AMAZON.CO.UK: $63.37 DIFFERENCE: $30.38

Macroeconomics AMAZON.COM: $114.00 AMAZON.CO.UK: $71.78 DIFFERENCE: $42.22

Linear System Theory and Design AMAZON.COM: $110.00 AMAZON.CO.UK: $49.81 DIFFERENCE: $60.19

Now the million dollar question… is it illegal to buy international textbooks in the US?

According to the Monore Street Journal, the official newspaper of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, the Association of American Publishers, Inc. sent a letter to follow up on an article that was published earlier on sales on international textbooks citing inaccuracies.

“The article maintains that the importation and distribution of restricted-territory, foreign manufactured textbook editions, without the publishers’ authorization, is legal under the U.S. copyright law, asserting that “in 1998 the US Supreme Court ruled that US copyright law does not protect US publishers from cheaper international editions of books being shipped into the US for sale into the US.” This is both an inaccurate statement of the applicable law, and a critical misstatement of the ruling in the decision of the referenced Supreme Court case, Quality King Distributors, Inc. v. L’anza Research International, 523 U.S. 135 (1998).”

“Publishers produce restricted-territory, foreign-manufactured editions to address the complexities surrounding issues such as the desire to make high-quality educational materials available to otherwise underserved students in developing markets, the potential for piracy within foreign markets where U.S. educational works are not otherwise meaningfully available, and the related requirements for establishing and maintaining local markets abroad. The publishers’ ability to sell books in foreign markets helps to spread the costs of creating these textbooks over a broader customer base, and thus helps to avoid having those costs borne entirely by purchasers in the
United States. This results in savings for students in the U.S. market.”

“Congress struck a balance in the Copyright Act that provides foreign markets meaningful access to U.S. educational publishing, but also ensures that such access does not either come at the expense of the quality of textbooks produced for the U.S. market or increase the costs of such textbooks for the students purchasing them in the United States. That balance is embodied in federal law and should be respected.”

The reality is you probably need a lawyer to help you unscamble the confusion that was set by the courts in 1998. As for buying an international version of a book… you can be the judge of this one.

[Read] Quality King Distributors Inc., v. L’anza Research International Inc., was the 1998 Supreme Court ruling the the NY Times article was referring to which the  Supreme Court found that the copyright holder could not prevent re-importation of materials it had authorized.

For a little more detailed reading you can check out US Code Title 17 Chapter 6 which discusses Manufacturing Requirements, Importation and Exportation.

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Innovative Technologies that Address Global Health Concerns…

There was a recent call by the World Health Organization for innovative technologies that address global health concerns. The enteries were reviewed by an expert panel and narrowed down to a handful that met the criteria for the call. Applicants were graded on the type of device, health concern, developmental stage, whether or not the product can be commercialized, the purpose of the technology, where it can be used (i.e. users or health centers) and the list continues…

All of the following address major health concerns, yet I believe it would have been great to see technologies that address the issue of clean water, containment of TB from becoming drug resistant, and even remote disease management (aside from SMS to prevent smoking).
My personal favorites include: the isothermal nucleic acid amplification system for TB diagnosis, the decision support system for paediatrics HIV and the transcutanous  anaemia monitoring system.

enjoy!


Selected technology category 1: commercialized/-isable stage

1.1 Stool sample collection and preparation kit
The intended purpose* of the stool sample collection and preparation kit is to simplify faecal examination by reducing the number of consumables and steps required for the procedure. The kit could therefore facilitate the diagnosis of parasitological diseases. Additionally, the kit does not appear to require water or electricity, and is claimed to prevent recontamination of the environment.

1.2 LED phototherapy unit
The intended purpose* of the LED phototherapy unit is to treat hyperbilirubinaemia in newborn infants by phototherapy. The unit could increase the safety of the procedure by using a radiation source that produces blue light and minimizes the exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation. Further potential advantages are that the unit measures the actual output of light at the useful wavelengths and is claimed to have lower energy consumption than previous designs.

1.3 System for on-site production of wound irrigation solution
The intended purpose* of the system for on-site production of wound irrigation solution is to produce aqueous solutions for the topical treatment of wounds and infections using a power source, demineralised water and salt. Solutions produced by the system could be used to treat a host of conditions including traumatic injuries, post-natal infections and neglected tropical diseases that cause ulcerations and infections.

her potential advantages are that the unit measures the actual output of light at the useful wavelengths and is claimed to have lower energy consumption than previous designs.

1.4 SMS smoking cessation system
The intended purpose* of the SMS smoking cessation system is to provide tailored SMS-based smoking cessation support to its users. According to preliminary research submitted, the system facilitates self-management of smoking cessation and increases the likelihood of user adherence to smoking cessation programs. The interactive system claims to be capable of answering messages about craving to support the user.

1.5 Reusable neonatal suction system
The intended purpose* of the reusable neonatal suction system is to remove obstructive mucus from the air passages in newborn infants to reduce the risk of asphyxia and to support neonatal resuscitation. The device is claimed to be reusable and capable of being cleaned and boiled between uses. The device is claimed to be made of durable silicone and not to require electric power.

1.6 Fluorescence visualization system for cancer screening
The intended purpose* of the fluorescence visualization system for cancer screening is to use the natural fluorescence of mucosal tissues when excited by a violet/blue light, to inform clinicians about the presence of abnormalities in the mucosa in the oral cavity. This system could aid in the early detection of oral/oropharyngeal cancers and thereby reduce morbidity and mortality associated with these diseases.

1.7 Transcutaneous bilirubin measurement system
The intended purpose* of the transcutaneous bilirubin measurement system is to provide an alternative to blood sample analysis for the diagnosis of hyperbilirubinaemia in newborn infants. The system uses spectral analysis of light reflected from the patient’s vascular bed to determine levels of bilirubin in the blood. The device is claimed to be non-invasive and to rapidly give a read-out.

1.8 Isothermal nucleic acid amplification system for tuberculosis diagnosis
The intended purpose* of the isothermal nucleic acid amplification system for tuberculosis diagnosis is to offer a point-of-care alternative to sputum smear microscopy for the diagnosis of tuberculosis. The technology is claimed not to require any additional equipment and to yield a rapid visual read out of the diagnostic result.

Selected technolgies category 2: non-commercialized/-isable stage

2.1 Simplified anaesthesia unit
The intended purpose* of the simplified anaesthesia unit is to function as an anaesthesia machine for surgical use in low resources settings. The device features an innovative valve system with reduced technical complexity compared to traditional devices. The device is claimed to function with oxygen from different sources, including ambient air and therefore would not require compressed oxygen.

2.2 Single use assistive vaginal delivery system
The intended purpose* of the single use assistive vaginal delivery system is to assist fetus extraction in cases of prolonged second stages of labour without having to use forceps, to use a vacuum extractor or to resort to caesarean sectioning. The lack of rigid instruments in the system is claimed to reduce the risk of injury to both mother and child.

2.3 Portable on site cell sorter and counter for HIV and malaria diagnosis
The intended purpose* of the portable on site cell sorter and counter for HIV and malaria diagnosis, a lab-on-a-chip device, is to monitor AIDS in HIV-infected people as well as blood cell alterations indicating malaria. The system appears to be a small and portable device that would allow for rapid automated screening of a blood sample for indicators of AIDS and/or malaria.

2.4 Decision support system for paediatrics HIV
The intended purpose* of the decision support system for paediatrics HIV is to move away from paper-based medical records while ensuring easy and reliable access to patient-centred information. This electronic health records system is targeted at paediatric HIV cases and is intended to aid clinical decision-making processes such as weight-based dosing support for antiretroviral drugs.

2.5 Transcutaneous anaemia monitoring system
The intended purpose* of the transcutaneous anaemia monitoring system is to screen populations for insufficient levels of haemoglobin in the blood and to carry out diagnosis of severe anaemia. The system is claimed to be based on spectrophotometric analysis. The device appears to be portable, non-invasive and is claimed to give a read-out in less than a minute.

2.6 Solar-powered autoclave
The intended purpose* of the solar-powered autoclave, is to sterilize medical instruments. It is claimed to run solely on solar power. This technology could allow sterilization of medical instruments in remote rural areas with no access to electricity and hence reduce the risk of infections associated with carrying out medical interventions with dirty equipment.

2.7 Portable infant warmer
The intended purpose* of the portable infant warmer is to improve the care of premature and low-birth-weight babies by providing heat at a constant temperature in order to prevent hypothermia. This portable device is claimed not to require electricity and would allow for close mother-to-baby contact. The product is targeted for use in urban and rural healthcare settings, and in home settings.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

The Dangerous of Melanoma and How to Early Detect…

For the past few years I have become more and more convinced that the burden of many diseases can decrease simply through prevention and early detection. This came through my involvement in UC Irvine’s Spot a Spot program, which is the main educational component of the National Melanoma Awareness Project. At its inception in 2003, this project was known as the Joel Myers Awareness Project in memory of young UC Irvine medical student who died from melanoma. Since that time, the “Spot a Spot.  Save a life” curriculum has been extended to across the country and taught 14,695 students from 2009-2010, which adds to nearly 50,000 students taught since 2003.

Some of the projects have included teaching middle school and high school students, junior life guards, and my personal favorite, going to Paul Mitchell School of Hair Design to teach young hair stylists how to spot a melanoma on their clients’ heads. The truth is when was the last time we checked our head for a melanoma?

Malignant melanoma is the second most common cancer seen in the adolescent and young adult population in the United States and accounts for 11% of all malignant cancers seen in this age group (age 15-39).  I will not go through all the statistics, just check out the Skin Cancer Foundation for solid facts.

What I do what to stress is that earlier detection, combined with improved treatment options, results in greatly improved survival outcomes. In fact, melanoma in 10- to 39-year olds is highly curable with 5-year survival rates exceeding 90%.

My motivation to write a quick blog post on this subject came as a result of an article in Vanity Fair on the Environmental Working Group’s recent study on sunscreen. The article quotes  “almost half of the 500 most popular sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer because they contain vitamin A or its derivatives.”

To add fuel to the fire, researchers from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health and Masonic Cancer Center claim that there is a link between use of indoor tanning devices to increased risk of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. However, the data is now being challenged by the Sunbed Association which outlines their claims in a recent press release.
Yet through all this controversy, there are two simple ways which you can early detect melanoma: the ABCDEs of Melanoma and the Ugly Duckling.

ABCDEs of Melanoma

Consult your dermatologist immediately if any of your moles or pigmented spots exhibit:

One half is unlike the other half.
An irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border.
Is varied from one area to another; has shades of tan, brown, or black; is sometimes white, red, or blue.

Melanomas usually are greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.

A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.

(American Academy of Dermatology)

Ugly Duckling


I personally think both methods are great tools for early detecting melanoma. However, to the untrained eye, the Ugly Duckling method has been tested  to have been a useful tool as a sign for melanoma screening (Arch Dermatol. 2008;144(1):58-64).

As much as we are told to stay out of the sun, wear protective clothing, or even use sun screen, your biggest tool in the fight against cancer is to early detecting melanoma by “knowing your skin.” (Dr. Leonard Sender)

*tshirt designed by Marc Jacobs to raise awareness about the deadly skin cancer and benefit melanoma research at the NYU Cancer Institute at NYU Langone Medical Center.

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A correlation between Harry Potter and Emergency Room Visits: The Harry Potter Effect…

After reading the reviews given by Christakis, author of Connected, and Taleb, author if Black Swan, two books which I enjoyed, I was excited to read Barabasi’s Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do. Unfortunately, I missed the Linked train and felt a little more compelled to read Barabasi’s next hit. The book itself had the right intentions in captivating a novice audience for a subject that has been purely dominated by mathematicians.  For right now, however, I will refrain from writing a book review. If you would like one, I would recommend Columbia Professor Andrew Gelman’s full review of the book (thanks Johan).

What I did want to write about was an interesting study that Barabasi highlights from the John Radcliff Hospital in Oxford England. The report published in the British Medical Journal describes that with nearly 70 emergency cases, on July 16 there was an unusually low amount of cases at the emergency room. Interestingly enough this was also the launch dates of  two Harry Potter books—The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince Saturday 21 June 2003 and Saturday 16 July 2005.
The numbers dont lie. The mean attendance rate for children aged 7-15 years during the control weekends was 67.4 (SD 10.4). For the two intervention weekends the attendance rates were 36 and 37 (mean 36.5, SD 0.7). This represents a significant decrease in attendances on the intervention weekends, as both are greater than two SD from the mean control attendance rate and an unpaired t test gives a t value of 14.2 (P < 0.0001). At no other point during the three year surveillance period was attendance that low.

The take away, “…all we need are ‘safety-conscious, talented writers who could produce high quality books for the purpose of injury prevention.’”

I wonder how many women avoided the emergency room when Twilight launched?

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The Red Shirts in Thailand…

I wanted to take a moment to share my thoughts and photos that I took of the current Red Shirt protests in Bangkok. Mind you that this was all taken a few weeks ago and since then the demonstrations and protesting have increased.

For the most part, the protests that we have seen have been non-violet. We actually saw many signs that stressed that this was a non-violent protest. Many reports have indicated that the violence last week, which lead to the death of about 25 individuals including a Reuters cameraman, where a result of anarchists. The definition of an anarchist here was not clearly defined and it is not known whether or not any of these individuals were Red Shirt supporters. Also, there have been reports of small bombings occurring on the side of the streets and yesterday a grenade being thrown. Tragic.

Okay, quick synopsis of what is going on from an outsiders perspective. There have been recent corruption accusations of the current government and discontent of the 2006 coup, which was supported by the Yellow Shirts (People’s Alliance for Democracy, PAD) that is comprised of businessmen and middle to upperclass. The Red Shirts, known as the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), representing the poorer classes, are supported by the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006 and has pending corruption convictions. After speaking to local Thai citizens, we were informed that the Red Shirts are provided with free water and food, and even cash to pay for any long distance travel expenses. According to CNN, Shinawatra fled the country in 2008 while facing trial on corruption charges that he says were politically motivated. As strong as the Red Shirts are right now in dominating the streets of Bangkok, the Yellow Shirts have given the government until this Sunday to calm the Red Shirt protests otherwise Thailand will be seeing counter-protests.

Thailand is ruled by a highly admired and revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, or Rama IX. He has been the longest reigning king in the history of Thailand – almost 64 years. There were two rules that were clearly stressed to us as a tourists in Thailand- 1) do not disrespect the Buddha and 2) do not respect the king. Trust me, I think more people had photos of the king around their cities, shops and homes than of their own family members. According to the NY Times, King Adulyadej, who has no political position, has been in and out of the hospital since September and has not commented on the current situation.

(photo from flickr)

When speaking to the Thai people we encountered, many are not happy with the protests. It has been very difficult on the Thai economy as tourism makes for 7% of the countries GDP and forecasts predict that it will drop as a result of the protests.

From my understanding the entire country is divided and there is a complete other half of the population which is in support of the Red Shirt protests. Demonstrations began in patches and became active with more than a 100,000 people camping the streets of Bangkok starting in March 2010. Day and night you can see people driving around the streets to demonstrate their support for Shinawatra.

As a tourist the most difficult thing was catching a taxi to go through the center of the city. Many taxis simply drove off, quoted us outrageous prices or took longer detours.

Although my understanding of the conflict in Thailand is still foggy, the fact that millions throughout the country are demonstrating for something they potentially believe is right has been inspiring. The difficult part to judge is whether or not the facts are true or maybe the supporters have been simply uninformed? I am certainly the last person to know. Coincidentally, I had been reading the work of Howard Zinn during the time of the protests and I was reminded of the individuals in our history who have stood up for their rights that we today take for granted- voting, minimum wage, good working conditions, etc…  I believe that if the Red Shirt supporters have a voice, then it needs to be heard through non-violent demonstrations. They must stand up for what they believe in. However, whether or not the Red Shirts are fighting for the right cause I cannot say, I just hope that the results of this ordeal bring to Thailand the continued growth and development it deserves. When Alan Moore wrote V for Vendetta, he said “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

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The Khan Academy…

UPDATE (Oct 2010): Congrats to the Khan Academy and winning Google’s Project 10 to the 100!

First place = $2m

http://www.project10tothe100.com/

Today you can almost get a free education (minus the degree) by podcasting or webcasting some of the best lectures from MIT, Berkeley and Harvard. However, without prior knowledge, it can be difficult to watch/listen to a lecture and understand what is going on at these high level academic institutions.

The Khan Academy is a true revolution in the way we understand academia. I can attest to it as all my younger cousins have used it as an excellent reference to supplement their classroom learning. Actually, it has been such an amazing resource that they claim that these lectures are even better than what their teachers teach them. The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing a high quality education to anyone, anywhere.

Yet, what makes The Khan Academy any different from other online lectures? The fundamental level of communication- using Paint Brush.

With over 1000+ videos on YouTube, and some videos having up to 200,000 hits and lasting up to 10 minutes per lecture, Salman Khan (not the Indian actor)has been able to create a true “open education system.” Originally the videos were put up for Mr. Khan to tutor his younger cousin who lived across the country, but little by little the videos began to pick up.

Subjects range from the Math (Calculus, Arithmetic, Trigonometry, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, etc) to Biology, Chemistry, Banking, Finance, and Economics. Everything is literally covered and subjects are growing everyday.

Here, for example, is an excellent lecture on one of my favorite subjects that I constantly help my cousins with: Trigonometric Identities.

I’ve definitely become a big fan of The Khan Academy. Along with excellent efforts by Teach for America and AmeriCorps, the Khan Academy is an invaluable asset to the academic environment. This project is exciting because it simply reaffirms my belief that human nature is naturally altruistic. Finally, I am a massive proponent on free education and it being held to the highest standard.  Investment into the education and health of this country need to be two of the most fundamental concepts supported by our legislators and leaders.

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London 2 Cape Town- A Road Trip…

What is the longest road trip you have ever taken? LA to SF? LA to Denver? Chicago? NYC?

How about London to Rome? Cairo? Darfur? Nairobi? Cape Town?

This is just a brief outline of an incredible road trip a friend of mine, Ryan Sanderson-Smith, a fellow classmate from Cambridge and South African native, is doing. He is on a mission to not only live his wildest dreams driving in a 1989 Toyota Landcruiser but also to add a cause to it.

Unlike many of our class mates who have decided to go forward in completing a PhD, MD or work in a consulting company/bank/startup, Ryan decided to take a road trip with to  raise money for SolarAid- a charity that fights global poverty and climate change with solar power. He and two others are currently traveling to various SolarAid projects. SolarAid was in fact one of the charities we were in discussion with during the summer of 2008 when we were involved with the Amex Member’s Project.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Ryan. Here is what he had to say (with his massively thick South African accent of course)-

“we’re having an absolute blast, hittin africa hard.driving around in a landcruiser with 2 rooftop tents on it, 2 spare wheels, a long range fuel tank (175 litres); and 4 solar panels on the roof that powers the engine cooling fan, power steering, stereo and charges our laptops, phones, any other electronics, and a kettle! which means we use less diesel.”

We drove through france and italy in 6 days. then a week in tunisia visiting desert oases full of dates and salt pans. then a week in Libya visiting lots of roman and greek ruins (but ironically it rained the whole time). Then just over a month in Egypt traveling down the nile and going to the sinai peninsula. and have now been in sudan for a month, mostly in the capital khartoum where the blue and white nile meet.

The best part has been the people. they have been so kind, friendly, hospitable and friendly. have quickly made friends, who are showing us around sudan in style. next we will go to ethiopia, kenya, uganda, rwanda, tanzania, zambia, zimbabwe, malawi, mozambique and back home to south africa.”

All I can say is next time book me a spot for the trip! It’s fascinating to know that almost everything that they are using- cooling fans, mobile, laptops, kettle, camera, stereo, etc- are all powered by solar.

To support the guys check out:

http://www.justgiving.com/overlandinthesun/

and check out their website where you can connect to their Twitter (@overlandsun) and Facebook:

http://www.overlandinthesun.com

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Vegetarian’s Nightmare….

In honor of Michael Pollan’s (author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma) new book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, I’d like to share a hilarious poem.

VEGETARIAN’S NIGHTMARE
by Baxter Black

a dissertation on plant’s rights

Ladies and diners I make you
A shameful, degrading confession.
A deed of disgrace in the name of good taste
Though I did it, I meant no aggression.

I had planted a garden last April
And lovingly sang it a ballad.
But later in June beneath a full moon
Forgive me, I wanted a salad!

So I slipped out and fondled a carrot
Caressing its feathery top.
With the force of a brute I tore out the root!
It whimpered and came with a pop!

Then laying my hand on a radish
I jerked and it left a small crater.
Then with the blade of my True Value spade
I exhumed a slumbering tater!

Celery I plucked, I twisted a squash!
Tomatoes were wincing in fear.
I choked the Romaine. It screamed out in pain,
Their anguish was filling my ears!

I finally came to the lettuce
As it cringed at the top of the row
With one wicked slice I beheaded it twice
As it writhed, I dealt a death blow.

I butchered the onions and parsley.
My hoe was all covered with gore.
I chopped and I whacked without looking back
Then I stealthily slipped in the door.

My bounty lay naked and dying
So I drowned them to snuff out their life.
I sliced and I peeled as they thrashed and they reeled
On the cutting board under my knife.

I violated tomatoes
So their innards could never survive.
I grated and ground ‘til they made not a sound
Then I boiled the tater alive!

Then I took the small broken pieces
I had tortured and killed with my hands
And tossed them together, heedless of whether
They suffered or made their demands.

I ate them. Forgive me, I’m sorry
But hear me, though I’m a beginner
Those plants feel pain, though it’s hard to explain
To someone who eats them for dinner!

I intend to begin a crusade
For PLANT’S RIGHTS, including chick peas.
The A.C.L.U. will be helping me too.
In the meantime, please pass the bleu cheese.

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Haiti, before the earthquake…

My early days of scientific research, statistics, and biology began studying an endangered tree species with my research professor and dear friend- Dr. Roland de Gouvenian. As our relationship grew so did my focus into a different field of research. We would spend a lot of time together- lost in the woods, roaming an island, and even working in rainstorms- and yet it would be our companionship that would get us through the best and most difficult of times. One of the nicest things about having a French professor- besides the constant in-your-face brie cheese- is learning about different cultures. One thing I really appreciated, in addition to my friendship with Rolando, was the time spent learning from his wife Joceyln. Jocelyn might even have a bigger heart than Rolando. I learned that Joceyln isn’t French, but that she is actually Haitian.  Our friendship sparked my interest in a country that has been labeled the poorest in the western hemisphere, but the true wealth of this country, as I learned, was in the culture, food and even the music of the Haitians.

When I found out that Haiti had been struck by an earthquake, with reports claiming a devastated Port-au-Prince, I immediately emailed Rolando. Since the earthquake we have been in constant communication, and I was sent some photos he took of what Haiti was like before the earthquake…

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Eglise du Sacre-Coeur, Les Caye

Port-au-Prince, Haiti -Presidential Palace

Pétionville, Haiti

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Borne Fer, Haiti

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A new way to see your desktop…

I saw BumpTop a few months ago and today the Mac version has been finally released. What I am impressed about BumpTop is the creativity in presenting a new way at looking at the traditional desktop. Writing about it will do no justice, so you have to just see the video.

Some quick pros: the 3D feature, organizing your files into piles, the fluid and quick movement of the files- all allows me to be more organized since I always have music, papers/journal articles and folders all over my desktop.

Some quick cons: for some reason after I highlight a couple files, I cannot move them all together (only when you’re viewing one of your walls). However, it works fine for the desktop view. If I organize the files on my wall in 3D I am not able to see all of them when I zoom backout.

I am sure these will be fixed with up grades.

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Why Medical Schools are Four Years Long?…

Why Medical Schools are Four Years Long?

Ever since I can remember, medicine and access to healthcare has played a central theme in many of the things I have been involved with. Yet, how was it that medical education in America grew to provide such an elite education and train many of the world’s top health professionals?

If we look at the history of medicine it has certainly come a long way, and how physicians are trained has changed even more.  Historical figures such as Hippocrates, Pedanius Dioscorides, ibn Zakariya al-Razi, Ibn al-Nafis, and Ibn Sīnā are not only known for their influence on medicine, but also for being botanists, philosophers, geologists, poets – the list goes on.

Indeed medicine has changed. Over 200 years ago physicians employed bloodletting to treat our first president, George Washington, a giant man at 6’3, to treat of signs of a cold which later proved to be fatal. It wasn’t the cold that had killed him though. Washington had been drained of half his blood in less than a day. Today, however, as physicians continue their interdisciplinary practices, their education has become standardized.

Continue reading

Held by the Taliban: A Media Black Out…

The story of New York Times journalist, and Pulitzer Prize winner, David Rohde is a very interesting one. Rohde travels to Afghanistan to interview a Taliban leader but he ends up being taken hostage. Soon after, the NY Times requested all media outlets around the world, including Wikipedia, to respect a media blackout in order to increase any chances Rohde had of being released.

I have always admired journalists (writers, cameramen, drivers, translators…) because they take risks and follow their passion to get a story for us. Certainly biases do exist, but if that could be overlooked for a minute, the fact that individuals even risk their lives to get one interview with infamous people such as a Taliban leader is amazing.

What is also interesting is the role that Wikipedia played during this time. Wikipedia placed restrictions and controlled the coverage of information about Rohde in order to prevent any public attention from being drawn to his captivity, so as to not endanger his life. As Professor Joseph M. Reagle from NYU said in a NY Times interview, “Wikipedia has, over time, instituted gradually more control because of some embarrassing incidents, particularly involving potentially libelous material, and some people get histrionic about it, proclaiming the death of Wikipedia,” he said. “But the idea of a pure openness, a pure democracy, is a naïve one.”

Beyond anything else, however, the story of Rohde will be one that will be discussed inside and outside of the classroom for years to come- a story of journalism, captivity, bravery, and control of media.

This was the story of David Rohde who would share his experience of being captive by the Taliban for 7 months and 10 days from November 2008- June 2009.

Held by the Taliban:
Part 1: 7 Months, 10 Days in Captivity
Part 2: Inside the Islamic Emirate
Part 3: ‘You Have Atomic Bombs, but We Have Suicide Bombers.’
Part 4: A Drone Strike and Dwindling Hope
Part 5: A Rope and a Prayer
Epilogue

Video of David Rohde Here

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Finding Peace in Afghanistan…

SpiralStairs

For what accounted for a majority of the 20th century, Afghanistan experienced some of its most peaceful and thriving times. It would be a coup in 1973 when King Zahir Shah was overthrown by his cousin, General Daoud Khan, which would create an inflection point in Afghanistan’s history.

Once referred to as “the Switzerland of Asia,” the Afghanistan I grew up loving is not the same Afghanistan that many see today. It was prosperous, a place for seeing the East by many Westerners willing to explore the diverse landscapes. Years later my family would be forced to leave their home country and my grandfather, a military general, would retell stories of Soviet tanks rolling down the middle of the street.

Today, Afghanistan has become a country that has been plagued by war, drugs, and lack of healthcare. People are suffering as the Taliban continue to be a constant threat. Instability on all fronts of Afghanistan’s borders does not help the current situation in the country.

Worst of all, the majority of the population under the age of 21 faces future problems with post-traumatic stress disorder being among the top of many health challenges. The issues of mental health, tuberculosis, and polio all contribute to the reason why nearly 1 in 4 children do not make it past the age of five.

With the recent elections in Afghanistan, many of my friends have come and asked me about my thoughts on the matter. These elections were the second elections since the US  and international forces entered Afghanistan. There are two top candidates- the current incumbent President Hamid Karzi and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. Both come from unique backgrounds with popular support. There is also Ashraf Ghani, former Finance Ministry who warned Afghanistan would become a “narco-mafia state”, and is using social media to push his campaign forward and who was also a speaker at TED. At the end of the day, it is difficult to comprehend whom to support when your country has gone through so much turmoil.

The Bonn Agreement of December 2001 set the transition phase for Afghanistan and was directly followed up with the Afghanistan Compact set at the 2006 London Conference. Among many of the important issues, the development of the Afghan state and civil society, the direction and effectiveness of humanitarian assistance, and the impact of such assistance on repatriation and resettlement ranked highest on the agenda. The topics of security, women in the peace and development process, counter narcotics, and human rights were also highlighted. Now, as the five-year agenda begins to slowly become a reality, these are guidelines that are important for Afghanistan’s leadership to take into their agendas as they become involved in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. However, through this process one of the greatest things necessary for any future leader is transparency and accountability in ensuring that corruption is minimized.

Whoever is fortunate enough to lead the country as the next president, their responsibility will be to work with global leaders to bring an end to the suffering as quickly as possible. The goal for the country is to not just end a war, but to use the Afghan people’s pride and channel it into creating an environment for compassion and mutual understanding that existed during many years of the country’s growth.

The focus in rebuilding Afghanistan after the elections will need to be on improving education and making it a priority for all children under 18. There needs to be an improvement in the economy and utilizing the country’s resources such as natural gas. Corruption stemming from political leaders, drug trade and contracts for aid money has slowed the development of Afghanistan. Stronger security is certainly a must and a key variable for perpetuating Afghanistan’s modernization.

I was once told that in peace the sons bury their fathers, and in war the fathers bury their sons. Yet, in Afghanistan, too many wives have buried their sons and husbands. Afghanistan’s history would begin early with the defeat of Alexander the Great, to Genghis Khan, multiple British invasions, the Soviet Red Army, and the Taliban. And, yet, after a long history of peace and war, more than many other Asian countries, Afghanistan’s key to converting a dream back into reality is through reunifying the Afghan people.

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Fêtes de Genève 2009…

Possibly one of the largest independence day celebrations/end of the summer festivals in the world. All the stops were pulled on this one.

Lake Léman (Geneva).

Geneva3

Cars getting Bumped.

Geneva1

People Swinging.

Geneva2

Jet d’Eau [500 L (132 gallons) x 1 sec = 140 meters (459 feet) high]

Geneva4

Sponsored by the Sultanate of Oman.

Geneva5

Ferris’ Wheel.

Geneva6

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Mind the Gap: Cancer in Adolescents and Young Adults (Part II)…

Today, there are over 70,000 adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer per year in the US alone. For over two decades there has been little or no improvement in survival in cancer patients between the ages of 15-39, as defined by the US National Cancer Institute. Cancer is the most common fatal disease in adolescents and young adults.

Traditionally, cancer has had two schools of thought: paediatric oncology and adult oncology. Today, however, oncology (the study and treatment of cancer) can be thought to consist of four distinct divisions: paediatric, adolescent and young adult, adult, and geriatric cancer. What makes adolescent and young adult cancer patients different are the unique diseases that affect this age group. Paediatrics suffers from cancers such as leukaemia, and adults suffer from diseases  such as lung, prostate, gastrointestinal tract, and urinary system cancer, which are identified as older people’s diseases. Comparatively, almost 90% of all invasive cancers in the adolescent and young adult group are accounted for by ten groups. [See box]

Box [2]:
1.    Breast cancer
2.    Lymphomas
3.    Melanoma
4.    Female genital tract tumours (ovary and uterine cervix)
5.    Thyroid carcinoma
6.    Sarcomas
7.    Testicular cancer
8.    Colorectal carcinoma
9.    Leukaemias
10.    Brain tumours

Picture 4

[5]

Being an adolescent or young adult is the biggest risk factor for delayed treatment, even though there is some overlap in diseases between the different age groups, . Moreover, in the US, young adults have the highest percentage of uninsured or under-insured individuals of any age group. In 2004, 13.7 million young adults aged 19 to 29 lacked coverage, an increase of 2.5 million since 2000 [1].

People in the age range 15–39 have different risk factors for cancer. Cervical cancer occurs most frequently in females infected with human papillomavirus. Risk factors for Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cancer originating from a white blood cell) include a history of autoimmune disorder, a family history of malignancy or hematopoietic disorder (abnormal formation of blood cells), and being of Jewish descent [3]. Skin cancer risk factors can be contributed to a combination of events such as high UV exposure, having a mole and a history of skin cancer in the family [3]. Melanoma (a type of skin cancer) is the most common cancer in women ages 20-29, and the biggest cause of cancer deaths in women ages 25-30 [3]. Ironically, more than 9,500 cases of malignant melanoma were diagnosed in the UK in 2005, and while Australia may have a high rate of melanoma (9,722 new cases in 2004), the death rate is lower because of early detection (1,600 deaths in 2005 compared to 1,852 deaths in the UK in 2006) [4,12,].

Adolescents and young adults have different physiology (e.g. hormones) and pharmacology (e.g. drug clearance, side effects) to other age groups with respect to cancer susceptibility and treatment [7]. To fully comprehend these differences, scientists need more people of this age range to participate in medical trials. In addition to adolescents and young adults being under represented, there are far fewer men than women who have participated in clinical trials between the ages of 20 and 40 [2]. Poor clinical trial participation is one reason why there is a lack of progress on cancer treatment for young adults and older adolescents.

Today, cancer survival in paediatric and older adult age groups continue to improve, all while progress on treatment of adolescents and young adults remains lagging behind. That is why there are organisations that are creating a community for this age group through health education, survivorship events, conferences and policy making; as well as providing psychosocial support through support groups, social networks and blogs.

Organisations, such as the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) in the UK, are building units in NHS hospitals specifically for teenagers with cancer. The newest one is opening at the Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge at the end of 2009. In the US, organizations such as I’m Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation (i[2]y) and Planet Cancer have created grassroots movements to raise awareness and improve young patients’ prospects. ‘Spot a Spot’ is an educational outreach program in the US that is educating more than 10,000 students every year on the key risk factors for skin cancer using their “Spot a Spot. Save a Life” campaign. Finally, SeventyK is an adolescent and young adult advocacy organization that has proposed a new patient’s bill of rights specifically for young cancer patients, which has over 7,000 signature supporters globally. They have teamed up with other international organizations to help create a international charter that will set the precedence for treatment of adolescent and young adult cancer patients throughout the world.

Long-term survival and health is also important for young cancer survivors, which is why many organisations are emphasizing psychosocial support, as well as addressing other issues such as fertility[1,8]. Going through, for example, a round of radiation or chemotherapy increases an individual’s risk of infertility and of developing secondary cancers later on. The primary concern when dealing with cancer is survivorship as well as secondary concerns such as fertility treatment. Yet, a GP’s level of knowledge about preserving fertility, their attitude and their comfort level with the topic can vary [6].  That is why it is important for GPs to be up to date with the fertility options available, and to offer sperm banking and ovarian cryopreservation (freezing of parts of the ovary containing immature eggs) to adolescents and young adults; who may have not been given clear explanations of long-term side effects of their cancer treatment [9,10].

In order to increase survivorship for a generation who have fallen through the gaps of medical practise, there needs to be stronger science, improvement in the way psychosocial issues are addressed, and self-empowerment. The medical community needs to increase their understanding of the adolescent and young adult age group and their high risk factors for cancer. Along with continued education, clinical and epidemiological research needs to improve in order for the medical community to understand what makes this age group so unique.

A healthcare provider’s responsibilities need to go beyond the clinic and they should help to develop age appropriate programmes in order to ensure the survival of cancer patients from paediatrics to adolescents and through to young adults. Finally, there needs to be a sense of ownership from adolescent and young adult cancer patients, so that their voice is not blurred by misdiagnosis or delayed treatment. Ownership beginning with patients taking control of their health and supporting policy initiatives introduced by advocacy groups such as SeventyK [11] . It is important for young people to know as much as they can about their cancer and its effects; enabling them to make sure they receive the correct treatment and seek out the appropriate and specific help and care they deserve.

I originally had this essay printed in The Triple Helix. Special thank you to Dr. Leonard Sender & the SeventyK team.

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References:
1.    Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Progress Review Group. Closing the Gap: Research and Care Imperatives for Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, and the LiveStrong Young Adult Alliance.
2.    Bleyer, A., et al. (2008) The distinctive biology of cancer in adolescents and young adults, Nature Reviews Cancer, April, vol. 8, pp. 288-298.
3.    Bleyer A, O’Leary M, Barr R, Ries LAG (eds): Cancer Epidemiology in Older Adolescents and Young Adults 15 to 29 Years of Age, Including SEER Incidence and Survival: 1975-2000. National Cancer Institute, NIH Pub. No. 06-5767. Bethesda, MD 2006.
4.    Skin Cancer. Cancer Research UK. http://info.cancerresearchuk.org
5.    Bleyer A. (2007) Young Adult Oncology: The Patients and Their Survival Challenges, CA Cancer J Clin, vol. 57, pp. 242-255.
6.    Quinn, G., et al. (2008) Patient–physician communication barriers regarding fertility preservation among newly diagnosed cancer patients, Social Science & Medicine, pp. 784–789.
7.    Wu, X., et al. (2005) Cancer incidence patterns among adolescents and young adults in the United States, Cancer Causes and Control, vol 16, pp. 309–320.
8.    Schover, L, et al. (2002) Knowledge and Experience Regarding Cancer, Infertility, and Sperm Banking in Younger Male Survivors. Journal of Clinical Oncology, April vol 20, 1880-1880.
9.    Soliman, H. and Agresta, S. (2008) Current Issues in Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Survivorship, Cancer Control, Vol 15, pp 55-62.
10.     Jeruss, J. and Woodruff, T. (2009) Preservation of Fertility in Patients with Cancer, N Engl J Med 2009, vol: 360, pp. 902-911.
11.    SeventyK [homepage on the Internet]. [(www.SeventyK.org)
12.    Australian Government. Department of Health and Aging. Skin Cancer. http://www.skincancer.gov.au/

Mind the Gap: Cancer in Adolescents and Young Adults (Part I)…

mindthegap

It was all coming too fast. Three weeks ago J had gone to her GP (General Practitioner) to complain about the swelling of her arm that had not subsided. She had recently graduated from Yale—at the top of her class—and was preparing to go to Harvard Law School. She was home for the summer living with her parents in New York. J had two younger brothers and a young sister in London. The only thing that mattered to her was her post-graduation trip to sunny California. It was when J had been packing and had gone to reach for her shirt on the top of the dresser that the chair she was standing on lost its grip and J fell a couple feet to the ground, landing on her arm. As she only had some swelling and slight pain, her GP simply recommended to ice it and she would be fine.

When as young adults we complain of a problem to a GP we are not always taken seriously, which can result in late diagnosis or misdiagnosis. In fact, there are many explanations for late diagnosis and according to Dr. Archie Bleyer, these include delaying to seek medical care and obtaining a correct diagnosis, lack of routine medical care, poor training or an unwillingness to care for young adults among GPs, under-recognition by medical professionals of certain diseases or its symptoms and signs in J’s age group, and lack of health insurance (US).

J’s persistence to meet with her GP and to tell him that her swelling and pain around her right arm was not a result of her fall saved her life. J actually had osteosarcoma, one of the most common bone cancers in adolescents and young adults. The treatment for it calls for a combination of chemotherapy followed up with a surgery to remove the tumour and follow up chemotherapy to improve any chances for removing the cancer cells. Generally, radiation is only used when surgery is impossible. If J had waited any longer, the chances of metastasis of the tumour would have increased, most likely going to her lungs. Although the causes are unknown, the symptoms of osteosarcoma include tenderness, swelling and pain when lifting. All these are common symptoms usually also experienced after a fall so it can be seen how J’s GP could have overlooked a serious bone cancer for just a slight irritation. Yet, are GPs doing everything they can? to be continued

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

India: The People’s President…

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Last week I had a unique opportunity to watch Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam speak. Dr. Kalam was regarded in India as the People’s President and served in office from 2002-2007. He is known, interestingly enough, to play a key role in India’s space race and nuclear development, quite odd combination for such a humble man. It was not only amazing to see the former President but to also have a lecture, as his roots are truly academic. This put icing on the cake. Now I will preface this, however, that I am not deeply connected to India’s politics and thus my thoughts are from my initial impression.

I had the privilege to join about a hundred of Cambridge’s top Indian professors and researchers to fill an intimate sized lecture room. There is no doubt that Cambridge has been home for many Indian nationals including some of my close friends here. Some of the most famous alums include- the cricketer Prince Ranjitsinhji (1872-1933), India’s Prime Ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) and Rajiv Gandhi (1944-1989); and Amartya Sen (born 1933), foremost economist and Nobel Prize winner.

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What I wanted to write about was not necessarily about the topic that Dr. Kalam spoke about- Creative Leadership. Although the lecture was great in of it self as Dr. Kalam highlighted different personal experiences tying them  to leadership.  What I would like to highlight are some of my initial thoughts about the talk and my impressions of a leader from one of the world’s most powerful countries.

Dr. Kalam spoke beautifully, and clearly demonstrated a unique passion for education, especially for the youth. When asked by a Chinese professor about the future relationship of India and China, Dr. Kalam’s response was simple. “I believe they are naturally allies,” and this begins with righteousness in the heart, he ended. The point Dr. Kalam stressed  was that these two natural allies must be taught to work together from three key influential players in a child’s life- the mother, the father, and (this was the best part because all the Indian’s in the room said it in unison) the teacher. This comes to show how much Indians have continuously valued education, which has been reinforced through my own personal friendships.

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A question that completely was expected but the response caught me off guard was when Dr. Kalam was asked by a Physics Post-Doc student (when she mentioned that, Dr. Kalam asked what her dissertation was on), what do you recommend for all the Indians who have left India and have settled down? Dr. Kalam’s response was straight forward and honest- do your best for yourself and your country (that you live in). I was honestly expecting a response such as – don’t forget India. Yet, Dr. Kalam showed realism in that many Indians who have immigrated to other countries have already settled down and are raising their children. To these people, India becomes a second home that is never forgotten and always remembered.

The best moment was at the end when a professor of business was giving a closing thank you, Dr. Kalam interrupted him and clearly made the point that he can be emailed through his website and he will ensure a response within 24 hours.

(This reminded me of a side thought- are people successful because they response within 24 hours or because people responded within 24 hours they are successful? This was a question that was proposed as major companies such as Amazon and Ebay were booming.)

Just some thoughts…

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

A swallowed denture…

I am not going to lie, this is pretty amazing. A 56-year-old woman.

dentures4

The Lancet, Volume 373, Issue 9678, Page 1890, 30 May 2009

The plain abdominal radiograph (A) showed the denture within the small intestine, with no sign of bowel obstruction or perforation. Plain radiographs (B) showed the denture within the caecum, within the splenic flexure (C), within the descending colon (D), and within the rectal ampulla (E). Unremarkable plain radiograph obtained after the dentures had been removed (F).

Normal digestive pathway:

digestive-system

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Food for Thought…

As I sit in the midst of my dissertation writing it becomes very easy to go hours without eating something healthy or just eating in general. I would like to think of myself as a healthy eater and always conscious of what goes into my body (my body is my temple). Although, friends who have seen me at my lowest may disagree.

Here are my favorite top  5 quick snacks (certainly not original except #1)- I sound like Martha Steward.

#5 Hummus + Bread + Feta Cheese

#4 Toasted Whole Grain Bread + Cream Cheese + Smoked Salmon

#3 Yogurt, Honey, Oats/Nuts

#2 Banana + Nutella

…enough said.

#1 Fruit Smoothie

Usually a cup of mixed berries, cup of pineapples, and enough apple juice and blend it!

I usually use frozen because I don’t have to peel, cut or wash and I just throw them into the blender.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Knowledge Search Engine vs. Informational Search Engine…

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Right now Google seems to be the major player in the field of search engines. I have absolutely no doubt about that. Yet, last night I had a good sit down with a close friend of mine who introduced me to Wolfram|Alpha. My friend is the type of person who pretty much treats academics much the same way many people treat Hollywood celebrities.

There have been so many attempts lately to challenge Google- searchme.com , cuill.com, or even MSN Live. Today, however, I have been convinced that there is a new big player that even Google Founder Serge Brin “is keeping an eye on.”

The best analogy of the night- Wolfram|Alpha is what Google was to the domination of Alta-Vista.

I had known only a little about Stephen Wolfram, but once I saw the amazing piece of work this once kid genius (Entered Oxford at 17, Received his Phd from Cal tech at age 20) had produced, I was completely in awe.

Instantaneous computational results- mathematics and science are just part of it. Imagine any sort of knowledge that you are looking for and have it quantitatively and qualitatively presented to you.

Blogs such as Techcrunch give the Wolfram|Alpha search engine a simple “not super impressed“, it just appears to me that they have been too busy trying to write about Twitter and have lost touch with new ideas such as the difference between a knowledge base and an information base. (Just a preface, yes I am a Twitter user)

However, I was simply blown away. Maybe I am just an amateur rambling, but do a simple search -  … How about – Burrito. I get the average nutritional facts, average daily value ranking, highest nutrients compared to other foods, calories, carbohydrates, fats, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals…

I certainly don’t expect for the search engine to be 100% complete, but what it has done is be able to present users in an organized fashion the information we all spend time in Google trying to find. It also has allowed me to continue appreciating how much we really cannot predict how technology will revolutionize society.

Wolfram|Alpha acts  like a  decision support system in which characteristics are matched to a computerized knowledge base. It is absolutely beautiful.  I don’t know how much Google will be threatened by the entry of Wolfram|Alpha as it is still early, and everyone still needs to do their Pubmed or Google Scholar searches when looking for papers or other information. But I can only try to imagine what has yet to come.

To have a live demonstration of how the search engine works (only 13 min) click here.

If you have time watch the presentation @ Harvard.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Dubai Inc. – Confronting the Truths (Part III) …

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“Dubai Media City, please.” I say to the cab driver as the 2007 Toyota Camry drives down Jumeriah Beach Residence (JBR). JBR is in the heart and soul of the Dubai boom. The two dozen or so projects here include some of the most advanced architecture and design in the world.

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I ask the cab driver, “how is your day?” Being alone in a big city has forced me to go extra out of my comfort zone in order to share a few words with someone I will only meet once. Today the conversation ends after, “Fine sir.” I know the Pakistani cab driver’s English is limited. Like many, the cab drivers in Dubai are from Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad, and other major cities and villages from Pakistan. On one particular day I remember being picked up from Medinat Jumeriah, a fancy getaway that is swamped with tourists from Europe and Russia. The cab driver introduces himself as Ahmed (for the purpose of confidentiality all names have been changed).

Again, I begin my conversation on the drive back to my apartment, “how is your day?” This time the conversation seems to be manageable.

“It has been a long day sir.”

Ahmed begins to tell me that the police came by and gave every cab driver a ticket for cueing for customers at the resort.

“The police said it was illegal to queue  and that I have been penalized.”

This will come from his paycheck along with the other cab drivers. The cab system is very unique to Dubai, from my experience. The government owns everything in Dubai. From cabs, to telecommunications, construction, gasoline, health insurance,  and even the major airline company.

Ahmed tells me the story of the way he is treated as a cab driver. Once when he wore sunglasses and a policeman asked him if he was Arab because he “was not allowed to wear sunglasses.”  This level of harassment exists, but this story is only unique to Ahmed. This type of treatment certainly diverges from Dubai’s Code of Conduct.

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Human Rights Watch has written an extensive report on the exploitation of migrant workers, especially construction workers, in the UAE. This issue should not be taken lightly. What I saw, millions have seen, and few are writing about. Notably Johann Hari who says, “There are three different Dubais, all swirling around each other. There are the expats, like Karen; there are the Emiratis, headed by Sheikh Mohammed; and then there is the foreign underclass who built the city…” Stories that he writes about are nonetheless echoed by many of those workers who I had an opportunity to speak with as well. Stories such as workers who have their passport taken away from them and must begin work immediately upon arrival. The population is tightly controlled where individuals only have up to one month after losing their job to leave the country. Yet recently, this has been extended up to six months according to the Minister of Labour.

Rules are also strict. If you ask for a day off, as repeated by some cab drivers, the employer will ask, “Why, as if you have something better to do?” The idea is if you are not here to work then leave. This type of treatment or mentality does not get any better with the recent video of a member of the royal family torturing a man, shoving sand into a mans mouth and beating him with a wooden beam that has a nail protruding from it. At this point, I stop and take a deep breath.  I can only imagine the atrocities that have occurred over the past decade from prisoners in Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo.

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In my building there was a Nepalese man named Gupal. He shares his story with me. He makes 900 AED (1 USD = 3.67 AED) per month. Yet, 300 AED go for rent, 100 AED for phone bills, and 500 is sent back to his family. I look at him with a smile, “What about food?” I know this could be a simple answer. Maybe he just sends a little less in order to eat, but he gives me a look and shakes his head from left to right.

Of course he doesn’t starve himself, but to my  Bangladeshi comrade, who I had an opportunity to befriend over the past few weeks explains, “We have to budget.” My Nepalese friend works 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. At night he shares a room with 3 other guys. Some share a bedroom with 6, 7, or even 8 other people. These are the things that must be fixed in the country and standards must be increased for migrant workers by the government. Rules and regulations must be enforced so companies are not taking advantage of uneducated and unskilled workers.

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Dubai is a city that is being flooded by immigrants on work visas. Some stay for a couple years, and return to their country and some stay much longer. The majority of construction workers are from the Indian sub-continent. Cab drivers are Pakistani, restaurant workers and hotel workers are Filipino, and smaller Asian countries such as Bangladeshis and Nepalese men fill the countless other gaps in the working society of Dubai.

The stories shared all have distinct experiences and are unified by one thing: to make more money in order to send it back home to their wives and children. The difficult thing to comprehend, however, is that many of these workers actually pay agencies money to come work in Dubai. Agencies charge unskilled workers 5000-10,000 AED for visas, transportation, and other additional costs that should be assumed as expense for a company rather than placing the burden on the shoulders of migrant workers. Only upon arrival and work do people begin to realize that they will make their money back very slowly

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During the economy boom, Ahmed the cab driver told me that on a good day during the peak of Dubai he was making 5000 AED a month, plus government health insurance. Now, with Dubai’s slowing economic boom, he says about 3000 a month. Yet, it goes down from here. With no minimum wage in the UAE, Construction workers make about 600 AED a month, and the man who cleans the bathrooms, gets about 1.50 AED an hour. I can hear the construction workers way before I even get out of bed. I decided to see one day what time work actually begins for many of the Indian expatriates.

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The busses of workers begin to roll into the construction sites early in the morning between 5-6 am and work goes long into the night where workers can be on site for 12-14 hours, if not more.

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The city has attracted world-class talent and has become the financial and tourist capital of the Middle East as it serves as a hub for Asia, the Gulf, Africa and Europe. As Dubai continues to attract world-class institutions and companies, i.e. Harvard Medical School Dubai , the city will to remain a punching bag for writers from major large established cities. The hands of immigrant workers who were looking for a better opportunity than their home country could have built cities such as New York and Chicago. And what about the Indonesian and Filipino immigrant workers who protest in massive cities such as Hong Kong?

My recommendations repeat what many reports have suggested in that there be accountability on the part of the UAE government as well as companies that are hiring foreign workers to provide the best quality of living possible. There also needs to be strict enforcement of labor laws as well as prohibition of certain companies from working with agencies. In the same way we hold companies accountable for providing the highest standards possible for their employees in developing countries, we must to do in the same in Dubai.

As I fold my cloths, pack my bags and walk out of my 42-story building to hail down a cab for the airport, I take one last look at a city that will surely be different when I come back later on. I stand with my suitcase on the street and know that in economic slow down, I am like a fish surrounded by cab sharks since a trip to the airport will be worth a lot. A cab pulls up and he pops the trunk for me, I throw my bags into it and sit into the back seat. The cab driver turns and I quickly recognize Ahmed when I say, “Airport please.”

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

DuVanity (Part II)…

burj-al-arab

van⋅i⋅ty
/ˈvænɪti/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [van-i-tee]
–noun
excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.

This evening I went for a run on the beach. As I ran, kicking the sand in the air, trying to keep my balance, I could feel the heat insulated by the sand begin to rise. I then thought to myself about the project that is planning to place a cooling system below the sand so people don’t burn their feet while on the beach.

dubai-desert

The city known as Dubai continues to catch me off guard with something new and amusing. From the thrills of eating dinner above the city to the desert safaris, there is pretty much something here for anyone. However, what I have come to realize over my time spent in the city is that for the first time I am able to see how the rich spend their money. What is clearly noticeable here in newer developments of Dubai is that if you just got the new Nissan GTR, then the person next to you has the new Audi R8. These of course fall into the shadows of every single model of Ferrari you can think of. Lamborghinis roar through the Jumeriah Beach Residence over the soft luxury engines of a Mercedes, BMW, or Range Rover. Of course you can find a huge diversity of cars, however, there is such a large concentration of luxury cars that all the rest just fall into the background of the city. And if you think you have the best model, well let’s just hope your license plate number is two digits (1 digit will cost you $14.3 m).

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I am not going to lie- the buildings are amazing. These buildings will continue to bring in people throughout the world to this city. Many have said how the financial crisis may be bringing this city to an end. As one construction developer who I spoke said, “Dubai’s construction isn’t slowing down, it is just stabilizing and going to normal growth.” The city has been growing faster than people are coming and slowly the government has been able to refocus its strategy and invest into more than just construction, for example the opening of DuBiotech. There still is development and hotels continue to open up and each one offering something more than the other. From Michelin star rated restaurants to extensive ornate networks of traditional souks (open air markets), hotels are making sure that they are the hottest things to come to Dubai. What took many cities to be built over centuries, Dubai did in a few decades. Still criticisms exist, “you’re building a city in the desert, this is impossible.” The desert did not stop Las Vegas from being built nor did it stop 20 million residents from living in Los Angeles- with an annual rainfall of only 15 inches (38 cm). Give it time, and Dubai will continue to grow.

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Malls confirm every rumor that have reached the west coast. Dubai Mall offers an in door ice skating rink, giant 4 story waterfalls, and a massive aquarium. Emirates mall stands out with its massive ski slope and all malls are able to offer some of the finest clothing and brands available in the world. Even the local gold souks attract many of the world’s buyers.

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Restaurants, no matter where you are (or at least where I have been), serve with respect and quality. I must also give a shout out to the Mexican restaurants here. I have had more Mexican food in my time spent in Dubai than I have the entire past 6 months in the UK. A nice horchata and I would possibly have no reason to ever go to another restaurant.

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I have seen minimal police, and the few that I have enjoy their BMWs. This might be a non-American thing, however, in the US the most luxury a policy officer gets is a Crown Vic or a Camaro. There is no visible poverty and you see no homeless people on the street. Occasionally you may find a piece of liter on the floor, but that would be a rare occasion as well.

Fashion also plays an important role like any other place where you find beautiful people.  You will find Russians, Europeans, some Americans and some from Down Under. Some people come out in their brands, others come in their $500 torn t-shirts. Emirati’s of course are visible, even with some of the world’s most stylist Abayas. Everyone looks good no matter what age or after how many kids. The preface here is that fashion goes beyond expectations and sometimes extends to the overwhelming range, but it makes great for people watching.

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My point for these random thoughts isn’t necessarily to say that this life style doesn’t exist anywhere else, because I am sure that it does. Rather, it is to show how concentrated this life style is to one area. Dubai has been able to become a center hub for the Middle East and Euroasian continent and has welcomed all individuals to come. However, I have also noticed that some expatriates are more welcomed than others and I have begun to see that Dubai is more than just one dimensional… to be continued

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

The Confusion of Dubai (Part I)…

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It has been more than 72 hours since I have landed in what I have come to call this city as DubaiLand. Construction is non-stop and it can be seen clearly that Arab wealth, European design, and Indian hands have built this city. The city does not sleep and as of tonight I have accepted that it will be impossible for me to see everything in this city. There is no downtown. Originally everything was near the airport, then as things began to expand and the government came to understand the true value of this precious city tucked away in the Persian Gulf, the city began to develop in all directions.

Anything you want to do, you can do. It can be expensive or it can be cheap. It can be slow or it can be fast. Walking is unheard of, as today I saw my first and only lone bicyclist. Crime is not visible, well there just is little to no crime and I have only seen one police car here.

From the minute I stepped into the first cab, I began to understand more about this Emirate that I have always read so much about. As I left the airport, I began to chat with my taxi driver- a middle aged Pakistani man who is telling me the impact of the global economy on Dubai. He tells me that as a cab driver he is a government employee yet works on commission. Six months ago it would have taken 1-2 hours to get to the Jumeriah Beach Residence because of all the traffic. Today, it took only 30 minutes. He explains to me that buildings were being built faster than they could make room for new ones. Construction was 24/7. Work would begin and a single shift would be 8 hours, then a bus would pick up the Indian construction workers, to clear the way for a new shift to begin. All the tourist websites explained how difficult it is to get a cab at a mall because it is always packed, today cabs wait outside the mall for shoppers. Things have slowed down but I don’t think it will dramatically alter Dubai unless the global economy continues in this state for another half decade.

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(Jumeriah Beach Residence)

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Quick history- after the Sheikh realized the prosperity that was being gained from all the continued demand of construction and development two government companies were created but run independently as private businesses. (Apparently everything created here by the government comes in pairs in order to create competition).  One was Nakheel (Palm Jebel Ali, Palm Jumeriah, Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai World) and the other was Emaar (Burj Dubai, the Lakes, the Greens). Now these two development companies are going around the world and flexing their skills. The UAE has become so influential that is holds major shares in almost anything and everything: Securing rice fields in Thailand, major share holder in Ferarri, 75% of the Chrysler Building in NYC, MGM, and even investing in UK Soccor.

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Dubai is the first Muslim country I have ever stayed in, I find it quite interesting and it  (from what I understand) is one of the most liberal of the Gulf countries. The amount of wealth that is in Dubai is beyond many places in this world. There is a unique ambiance in which class matters, what you drive is who you are and you should be prepared to spend your money. There is old money and there are the new kids on the block who work endless hours to break into a new social class. However, all of this is done in a very subtle and elegant way. There is a level of respect, Sir and Madaam are commonly used, and women are treated with respect. However this city is not as foreign as I felt it would have been. It possesses Newport Beach’s cars and lifestyle, Las Vegas’ money, and New York City’s business.

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There are however boundaries from what I have seen and read. No one criticizes the government or Islam, if women are showing too much skin in magazines they are blocked off and aside form the media, the Internet is also controlled. I cannot use Skype unless it is Skype to Skype.

Tonight I walked to the Marina Mall. With the amount of construction surrounding me, I was so surprised to not even find a coke can or piece of paper on the ground. When I walked into the massive mall, the first thing I thought to my self is how am I going to walk on these floors, there is no dirt on it for my shoes to stick to- the floors were polished clean and I couldn’t walk straight without slipping. As I walked the streets of Jumeriah Beach, I quickly realized how eclectic this city is and how I only have seen such a limited perspective of what Dubai really is.

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I hope to explore this city and further understand the hands that run the city to the hands that have built the city.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Berkeley: 3 of the 15 Strangest College Courses…

strange

adjective, strang⋅er, strang⋅est

Unusual, extraordinary, or curious

I came across Online College Blog today which ranked the top 15 strangest college courses in America. Berkeley gets three mentions out of the 15, this explains why the University of California is the best college in the country (personal biases).

What are the three…

15. Arguing with Judge Judy: Popular ‘Logic’ on TV Judge Shows

Not quite what one would expect, the professor of this course emphasizes repeatedly in the course listing that this class is “NOT a course about law or “legal reasoning.” It is instead an exploration of logical fallacies that are often presented by defendants and plaintiffs on court television shows like Judge Judy and The People’s Court. Seems right up the alley of most college students, as they are squarely in the demographic of afternoon television programming (which also targets the elderly and unemployed).

4. Simpsons and Philosophy

This one is probably predictable as you’ve got a twenty year old show with plenty of rich fairly intellectual material and a main character with the name of “Homer”. UC-Berkeley claims this isn’t at all a dumbed down class, but a fairly rigorous philosophical course. The text of the class is the book “The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D’oh of Homer,” edited by William Irwin and features weighty questions such as “Can Nietzsche’s rejection of traditional morality justify Bart’s bad behavior?”.

1. The Strategy of StarCraft

http://www.berkeleystarcraft.com/

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The Future of Cell Phones…

We all know it. The next cell phone for any of us will be a smart phone. For many, this will be an iPhone.

However, imagine a bunch of really cool gadgets that are out right now.

Apple’s iPhone…

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Amazon’s Kindle…
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A GPS System…

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Okay maybe not that cool, but imagine all of them in one concept.

I am a little late on this, but I had an opportunity to speak with Marc Bailey of Nokia last week here in Cambridge. He told me about where the future of health care communications is heading. Yet, beyond healthcare, I was introduced to Nokia’s concept phone- Morph.

nokia-morph-concept-nano-materials

Simply to see how it works ou have to watch the video:

Features of the Morph:
*  Newly-enabled flexible and transparent materials blend more seamlessly with the way we live
* Devices become self-cleaning and self-preserving
* Transparent electronics offering an entirely new aesthetic dimension
* Built-in solar absorption might charge a device, whilst batteries become smaller, longer lasting and faster to charge
* Integrated sensors might allow us to learn more about the environment around us, empowering us to make better choices

Beyond the fact that this concept is about 10-15 years away, I am still blown off my feet by the creativity and ingenuity behind this technology.

In my 4th grade elementary class we had a guest came in to speak to us about cellular phones. The class bunched together and sat on the floor as the presenter stood in front of us. He reached behind his back and pulled out what I saw as a cordless phone. This phone was definitely something from the 90s.

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In any matter, what he said next would stick with me as I became part of the technology revolution- “One day cellular phones will replace every home phone and every person will own a cellular phone.”

This is already happening.

As consumers, when something new hits the market we used to immediately ask ourselves the basic who, what, why, where, and when, but with such rapid advances in technology there is only one question we ask ourselves, and that is “how long until…”

The ability for engineers to even think of  a concept such as the Morph shows that although the iPhone and Facebook may dominate society today, nothing is for certain. In the same way that AOL no longer is the main internet service provider and that a Kodak no longer implies a camera (in the early 1900s people use to say “get your Kodak” [camera]), technology and creativity will be the ultimate assessment of the fortitude of a company.

After a dinner conversation with a friend, we agreed that the best scientists are the ones who don’t ask the best questions, rather ask the right questions. I can’t wait to see what the future holds…

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P.S. Update from my 14 Janurary post on Real Mind Control…
Check out Uncle Milton Industries Jedi Force Trainer:

By wearing a headset that detects electroencephalography (EEG) signals, users can control a floating ball using the Force—force of mind, that is. By concentrating as hard as you can, you can get the ball to rise higher; concentrate less and the ball sinks. The wireless EEG headgear sends signals to a device that controls the speed of a fan, which in turn lifts or lowers the ball to various levels. This item rivals Mattel, Inc.’s new $80-$100 Mindflex, which uses similar technology to keep a ball aloft. Available in August.
Price tag: $130

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Valentine’s in Economics…

As Saturday comes, some will be celebrating old friendships over dinner, some may be celebrating a birthday or anniversary but many will be with their loved one. The beauty of relationships is its ability to be translated into any language, including economics.

I was introduced to Tim Harford by a professor here at Cambridge. Harford is an economics writer for the Financial Times and is known for his “Dear Economist” column. Aside from my superficial understanding of economics, below is a funny excerpt from one of his columns in the Financial Times.
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A Snowday in Cambridge…

A day in my eyes…

P.S. not really a fan of putting my name on pictures, so if you really like them let me know and I can email original to you. Just don’t forget who took it :-).

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Real Mind Control…

Imagine putting on a piece of what seems like the inner brace of a construction helmet. However, what you have just placed on your head measures the electrical activity produced by the brain. This head set has 16 sensors that are uniquely placed to measure: conscious thought, emotions, facial expressions and head rotation.

Emotiv Systems is the company behind this technology which is headed and cofounded by Tan Le who has a very impressive resume. In 1998, Tan was named Young Australian of the Year (the most prestigious prize for an Australian) and voted one of Australia’s 30 Most Successful Women Under 30.

Although from what I have read about the product there seems to be limitations and the product works within the bounds of a defined context. However, the proof of concept exists in that researchers have been able to produce a technology that learns and reacts to the way your brain thinks and carries out an action that is detected.

What are the implications…massive! Emotiv Systems plans to roll this out to the gaming industry first. Of course an ideal move into a market which has over 40m users just in the U.S. and a worldwide game software and hardware industry of over $25b. Gaming systems like the Ninento Wii have certainly set a higher bar and opened up new opportunities for different industries to enter this continuously growing market. Incredibly, average age of a gamer is 28 in the UK, but the Entertainment Software Association estimates this average to be at 33 in the U.S.

Although not really gaming, take for example- Expresso Fitness, a developer and supplier of interactive, Web-enabled cardio fitness systems for the commercial health club market,  announced  that it has raised $12M in a Series C-2 round of funding by Physic Ventures (a really interesting venture fund that places emphasis on positive social impact and our ability to foster sustainable environmental solutions).

Not to diverge, but the Emotiv EPOC helmet is a freightening step towards a field of science and technology that could only have been described in a H.G. Wells’ book. Remember the last time you were with a friend and you ended up reading his/her mind? Does this technology essentially bring us a step closer to understanding the phenomenon of Extra-Sensory Preception (ESP)? I believe the unique technology behind the device is rather interesting and comes to show how far we have progressed in the fields of science and technology. Yet, we live in a society where mind control is often times related to watching too much TV and now it is us who can control what would possibly be displayed on the monitor in front of us.

I can only imagine what comes next: living in a society where people walk around without speaking to each other and some how understand what everyone is expressing to one another. Except I would call this device an ipod.

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The Life of Others…

We live in a society that is continuously flooded by overly perverted teenage drama movies and in a rare instance hope comes back and really brought me to realize the beauty behind the art of film making. This is to not say that there are not great movies previously produced- The Shawshank Redemption, Crash, Amelie- just to name a few. Unfortunately, we live in a time where the great movies are the ones that have been stumped on by Hollywood’s massive budgets. For what ever boundaries that exist and what ever variable that affect the popularity of a movie, when a movie such as Ashton Kutcher’s What Happens in Vegas (5.9/10, out of 20,295 votes) has a $35 million production budget, it would be obvious that a movie such as The Life of Others (8.5/10, out of 48,060 votes), with a $2 million budget, would be dwarfed by big budget films with big budget stars.

It begins with-

1984, East Berlin, Glasnost if nowhere in sight,
The Stasi, the East German Secret Police, keeps the population under strict control,
The Stasi declared goal: ‘ to know everything’

Glasnost was a policy introduced by the last Soviet Union General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev. This was a policy of openness and transparency, which was to be a means of combating bureaucratic distortion. 1985 was the commencement for the fall of a wall on November 9, 1989 that would be written in the history books as one of the most powerful times of the 20th century. For anyone who is a writer, a patron of the arts, a scholar of history or just someone who appreciates a movie that completes your thoughts but still leaves you yearning for more- although I am two years late- I would absolutely recommend for you to go out and rent/watch/download(itunes ☺) The Life of Others.

Das Leben der Anderen (The Life of Others) was written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and received the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. The movie is filled with drama, excitement, love, sadness, and happiness. Any summary I give about this movie would be a disservice to it. However, the general synopsis of the movie is about Georg Dreyman, an East-German Western educated playwright. Loyal to his country and uncritical to the Party, Dreyman knows the truth about his corrupt Soviet government, yet continues to live his life doing what he is good at. What Dreyman does not know is that Stasi Captain Gerd Wiesler begins to secretly supervise him due to a suspicious tip off from a minister. From here the story of these two opposite individuals evolve and the audience comes to see how the world of Dreyman and Wiesler merge. This movie simply takes you to a world that existed on a side of the wall that many generations of Orwell readers could only imagine. A movie is art when it converges your feelings all together and this is what Donnersmarck was able to do.

Next movie: Slumdog Millionaire

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

PowerPoint gave me C…

You walk into class, pick up a copy of (or have printed out) the slide handouts for today’s presentation and sit down to wait for the class to begin. What you haven’t realized yet is that the PowerPoint slides that you have in front of you are affecting the way you learn and exercise your mind.

The classic argument of whether or not technology has made our life easier or more difficult is definitely not going to be answered soon. Yet, the role of technology in the classroom is a whole other issue to explore. As I continue to round off my education, technology has had a greater presence in my educational growth. I love the fact that I can have wireless Internet at the tip of my fingers, computers in every room, and now even an LCD projector for every single room in a building. However, whether or not technology is contributing to the enhancement of my education is a completely different conversation.

Epson and Acer are both companies that dominate the production of the LCD projector with record shattering profits in the last half decade. My guess for why the increase? Every hospital, business and classroom has now adopted the “digital lecture hall.” Tucked away on the ceiling of these rooms, the LCD projector is now a standard in classroom equipment, just like any other desk, chair, and ….white board…maybe.

Cambridge is an amazing university, however, I began to notice after a week that the white boards and overhead projectors were beginning to disappear. Not physically, but the use of white boards and overhead projects as a tool for teaching has almost completely diminished. All my lectures all of a sudden were based on a PowerPoint. There has yet to be a complete lecture where a white board was needed, which must be pleasant for Microsoft to hear.

After doing a literature search and reviewing case studies on the use of PowerPoint in the classroom, I can definitely say that the results go both ways. On one hand, Powerpoint lectures have shown drawbacks. On the other hand there are no changes or some improvement on test scores and student participation.

Learning without slides

I had an opportunity to hear Michael  van Swaaij , PayPal Interterm CEO, speak on Monday when I mistakenly walked into the wrong class (PowerPoint dementia), and I listened to him deliver a great talk without once using PowerPoint. To top off this experience, I had an opportunity to meet and hear Professor Roger Penrose speak about this theory of what was before the big bang. [Penrose is famous for many things as well as his Penrose stairs and being a close colleague/friend/co-author of Stephen Hawkings]

What I was most amazed about Penrose is his ability to capture a room over 600 students and professors, explain his theory of which about 25% of it I understood, and effectively communicate it all with simply a dozen transparencies and an overhead projector.

Okay, so these were just general lectures, but what about the sciences? I took a three-day course on neuroscience and the set of lectures was done on the overhead. It was beautiful, taking notes, paying attention in anticipation of what is going to be discussed next and essentially actively getting involved with my own education.


You’re never too young to learn

The use of PowerPoint is now replacing middle and high school classrooms. I remember watching my little cousin prepare her book report presentation obsessed with different fonts and themes without realizing what she was writing about. I believe that as our minds develop with age and by always seeing PowerPoint lectures we limit our thinking skills. If students are given PowerPoint slides, they don’t learn how to take notes properly and retain information for their own growth and development.

The use of PowerPoint in the classroom will depend on the subject, professor, and students. A PowerPoint based lecture can only be as effective as the professor who is presenting it. Yet, their ability to lecture using PowerPoint has to become a skill and art. Like any teacher, the most important thing is to be able to effectively connect with your students and convey your lecture in a way that your students will learn and grow. I am afraid, however, that the general context of the lecture becomes a delicate balancing act with conveying your message and not reading from the PowerPoint. In all honesty, there have been some bad professors that would have been more effective with PowerPoint slides, so again, the benefits of using of technology in the classroom can outweigh the drawbacks if delivered properly.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Our Right is to Vote…

The birth of the United States was on the back of slavery, which ended in 1865. This was nearly 100 years after America fought for her independence but after almost 200 years of slavery in the US.

It took congress 5 years to amend the US Constitution and in 1870 the Fifteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, which prohibits the government to prevent a citizen from voting based on an individuals race or color. It took another 50 years for the US Constitution to prohibit the government from denying any citizen the right to vote based on a person’s sex. Essentially, women were given the right to vote by the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1920.

Unfortunately, there were still places in this country where individuals were still prohibited from voting and basic rights that were protected by the Constitution were not being reinforced by local government and eventually gave rise to the Civil Rights Movements (1950s-1970s). During this time, everyday citizens fought for basic rights. It took congress a second time to reinforce through the National Voting Rights Act of 1965 that you cannot “deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”  Finally, in 1971 the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the US Constitution standardized the voting age to 18 as a result of the fact that our parents were being sent to Vietnam without having the right to vote.

I believe that  sometimes we take advantage of these rights and over look the fact that so many people fought hard for us to simply vote without being harassed. Now, I don’t mean for this to be a history lesson, but it should be easily recognized that in one of the greatest countries in this world, only in the past 30 years has voting been a right for what comes out to be more than 70% of the country (age 18 and older). It is our responsibility as citizens of the US to vote! This is a right and a privilege that we have in this country.

How you vote is a different story…

I am not going to break down each candidate and their social, economic and foreign policy.

What I will tell you is that I believe that Senator Barak Obama is not only the best candidate, he is probably one of the best candidates who has ran for president in the history of this country. (at least in my life time). Never have I ever seen such an effort by such a passionate individual. Never have I ever seen an individual whose YouTube videos bring motivation for me. Never have I ever seen a half black, half white man who comes from a disadvantaged background, study at one of the top universities in the country, essentially live the American Dream, and run for President. Yes, only in this country is Senator Barack Obama’s story even possible.

It is time to return to realism, and away from unscrupulous foreign policy (Senator Obama has been favored by a four-to-one margin across the 22,500 people polled in 22 countries).  We know that the new president will have a large responsibility and have a lot of working waiting for him. That is why we need Senator Obama to begin addressing the economic situation, the failing healthcare system and problems in our education system. The only strong candidate in this race is Senator Obama and it is Senator Obama who can help bring change and progress in a society that has been clouded with war, economic depression, and poverty.


If you’re still on the fence (and I did not want to go here), then think about this:
President Palin

Echoing Senator Obama’s speech:

In one week’s time, we can choose an economy that rewards work and creates new jobs and fuels prosperity from the bottom up. In one week, we can choose to invest in health care for our families and education for our kids and renewable energy for our future.

In one week, we can choose hope over fear and unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo. In one week, we can come together, as one nation and one people, and once more choose our better history.

That’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for. And if in this last week, you will knock on some doors for me and make some calls for me and talk to your neighbors and convince your friends; if you will stand with me and fight with me and give me your vote, then I promise you, we will not just win Ohio; we will win this general election. And together we’ll change this country and we will change the world.



Who would have known that 2 years ago when my roommates were telling me about Senator Obama that I would have written a blog in support of him as president later on. If it is any consolation and in parallel with: WSJ, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Washinton Post- I am endorsing Barack Obama for President (just a little later than Colin Powell).

Please vote on Tuesday, November 4th.

If you are not registered to vote or your too young to vote, you can still help! Email and call friends and family who are registered to vote! Visit here, sign up, and you can contact people anywhere in the country and encourage them to vote Obama 08!

For you Californians- reinforcing the statement on Google’s blog, No on Prop 8 ☺, however, this is a whole different conversation…

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Management by Email…

It is about 9:00 am, you just have arrived to work and the first thing you realize is that your email inbox has overwhelmingly tripled from 25 new emails to 75 new emails…OVERNIGHT! Okay, so one-third of the emails are Facebook messages/comments, Twitter updates, or news feeds. A small percent go straight to the trash, and the remaining emails all need to be replied to. Well, technically this isn’t true because simply picking up the phone and making a call to that individual can resolve a majority of the emails. However, you innately refuse to call and would rather email someone back and forth to set up a meeting, plan a lunch, or schedule a conference call and unfortunately somewhere in those gaps, the message is lost, misinterpreted or not even received!

This is what has become the normal behavior for individuals whose work revolves around a computer. Now I am not arguing whether or not the Internet has made my life easier or not. If that was the case I sure can say it has. However, what happens is that emails go back and forth weeks on end and topics are discussed, times are scheduled all of which could have been simply taken care of by a few simple phone calls. We lose millions of dollars due to inefficiencies and miscommunication. This comes from an observation I had from working in a hospital.

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On a side note: Interestingly though, email may not be the main resource any longer. Former COO of Paypal (before eBay) and producer of Thank You For Smoking, released his Web 2.0 company- Yammer. Similar to Twitter, it allows users to post updates of their activities and follow other’s activities. Unlike Twitter, Yammer is focused on businesses, and only individuals with the same corporate email address can join a given network. Very clever and useful tool. Management by email will soon become management by Yammer.

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If you want to discuss inefficiencies in today’s society, we should look at the American healthcare system. There is a reason today’s medical healthcare system is failing. There is no clear communication and money is simply burned as a result. We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and yet we cannot provide the basic health necessities to our citizens. This is a country where the Fathers of Our Country emphasized that liberty is to the collective body, as health is to every individual body. Without health man can taste no pleasure; without liberty, no happiness can be enjoyed by society.

In the state of California the real problem occurs for my friends who are older then 21 and younger than 62. Up until the age of 21, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) covers for liability and for individual older than 62, there is at least the option of Medicaid. However, what does it mean when a 24 year old cancer patient goes to the clinic, finds our he will be infertile after his bone marrow transplant and cannot sperm bank because he cannot afford it.

As I reflect, I believe that change is in the foreseeable future. I close with one of my favorite quotes by Thomas Jefferson who observed that “without health there is no happiness, and called for the government to give highest priority to the health of citizenry.”

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

800 Years of Scholarship…

The reason I have failed to update the blog has been based on multiple reasons. Mainly because of the transition of moving from the US to the UK. It has taken sometime to get adjusted and I still feel like I am in vacation mode. I have now officially started my master’s program at the University of Cambridge studying a very amazing multidisciplinary program. My day started with entrepreneurship and ended with microeconomics. Trust me, Game Theory is ‘tizzite’. The rest of the week I get to study Treatment of Cancer, Viral Infectious Diseases, Cardiovascular Disease in the mornings and Decision Theory and Commercializing Sciences in the evenings.

As a member of Downing College (Cambridge is organized much like Hogwats in Harry Potter), the view outside my window looks a bit like this:

What does 800 years encompass?

-    83 Nobel Prizes
-    15 British Prime Ministers
-    3 Prime Ministers of India
-    2 Prime Ministers of Singapore
-    1  Prime Minister of Australia
-    Sir Isaac Newton (The laws of motion)
-    Charles Darwin (Evolution by natural selection)
-    J. J. Thomson (discovered the electron)
-    Ernest Rutherford (orbital theory of an atom)
-    Niels Bohr (understanding atomic structure)
-    Howard Florey (involved in the discovery of penicillin)
-    Hans Krebs (discovering the citric acid cycle)
-    Max Born (fundamental research into quantum mechanics)
-    James Watson &  Francis Crick (determining the structure of DNA)
-    Roger Y. Tsien (2008 Nobel Prize Winner, discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein)
-    King Edward VII, King George VI and Prince Charles did their undergraduate degree
-    Apparently one of the first places football (soccer) rules were established
-    Endowment of almost $8 billion

+ many other things that I may have not heard about or found through the Cambridge Website/Wikipedia.
In the mean time, I have purchased a nice dandy squash racket and plan to indulge myself into this really great sport. Apparently you can burn up to 1000 calories per hour!!!

As I slowly get back in the habit of trying to write some of my thoughts, I leave you with my last picture on US soil with my dear “mum”.

Obama ’08

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

If you win their hearts, you win the War…

This last Sunday I attended a demonstration in front of the Los Angeles Federal Building in Westwood. This was a peaceful rally in response to the escalation in the number of innocent civilian deaths in Afghanistan. Although the war in Afghanistan would be a great write, it would also be a long (maybe a book :-) ). However, I wanted to share some pictures and thoughts that crossed my mind on Sunday.

On August 22, the US-Coalition led forces killed 76 Afghan civilians in the village of Azizabad, a Heart province located in the western region of Afghanistan. As reported by the Interior Ministry in the Guardian, a majority of these deaths were women and children.

The problem here is that, according to the CIA World Factbook, almost 50% of the country’s population is under the age of 14. That means children who were born after the invasion of the Soviet Union and during the Taliban are now seeing an increase in innocent civilian deaths resulting in continued warfare and deaths. These children have seen nothing but war, death, and suffering so the issue of Afghanistan is not going to be solved next year, or the following year. It is an issue that will be part of the American history as it helps rebuild the country. From the Lost Boy of Sudan to the displaced children during the Bosnia conflict, studies have long suggested post traumatic stress disorder as one of the main problems that arise in adolescents from war torn countries (Goldstein et al 1997). This situation in Afghanistan should not be taken lightly and will take patience and time.

“Ignorance, isolation, illness, violence, and social upheaval have produced a “lost generation”; failure to provide long term support for Afghanistan risks losing another,” is how Professor Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta describes the conflict in Afghanistan. Since health care has been such an important aspect of my life, on February 2002 the British Medical Journal published possibly one of the most over looked pieces of work in the 21st century. The article, Children of war: the real causalities of the Afghan conflict stresses the importance of women and children being the prime focus of attention in rebuilding Afghanistan. This includes through sustained efforts at improving health, nutrition, and education, not reckless bombings.

Kathy Ganon, award winning Associated Press writer in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years, was interviewed by  on Democracy Now where she explains the situation quit clearly-

“People are—people today, even though they don’t want the international forces to go, because they’re afraid of what’s going to be left behind, because it’s such a mess—not just Taliban, but corruption, the lawlessness, the warlords, that has grown out of proportion or grown so greatly since 2001. So they’re afraid of what is left. But that’s why they don’t want them to go. And at the same time, they’re afraid now of the international forces. It used to be—really it used to be, five, six, seven years ago, they looked at the international forces with hope. Today they’re afraid.”

I would like to end on a point that was made strongly by two young college Afghan students. In every war you face collateral damage. Professor Marc Herold wrote, “the U.S. bombing campaign which began on the evening of October 7th, has been a war upon the people, the homes, the farms and the villages of Afghanistan, as well as upon the Taliban and Al Qaeda.”

Thus, if you invade our land, in the name of peace, and the war must continue, be humane at least.

As the world moves forward, Afghanistan is one of few countries that is going backwards. The photo below is from my family album taken prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1978. The heart and beauty in this magnificent culture is on a delicate beam, balancing between preserving what has not been lost and an occupancy that has brought continued difficult times.

If you would like to know how to help, please contact me, ali@aliansary.com .

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

The Politics of Fasting…

The Great Mosque of Paris was build in the early 1920’s and was known during WWII as one safe haven for Jews as they were safely hidden in the basement and women’s section of the mosque.

I thought I get deep this week.

For many people Ramadan, beginning September 1 or 2nd for some, marks the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar and a holy time of the year in Islam. Ramadan is believed to be the month in which the Quran was revealed and ends in three days of celebration known as Eid.

Why is this month so special for Muslims?

As many people know, during Ramadan, it is prescribed for many to fast from sun rise to sun set. Fasting is certainly not just practiced by Muslims, as it is a concept that translates through many religions. (click here for examples of different religions that fast) Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and means no drinking or eating, abstaining from everyday sins, and practicing Taqwa.

I believe Taqwa is really interesting because it is defined as a state of advanced consciousness, a state where you are aware of your actions, words and presence. What I find irresistible is how Taqwa translates over through so many diverse backgrounds. Imagine wearing a thin long sleeve white shirt and walking by a large tree with hanging  branches. Taqwa is the idea being aware of those branches and not having those branches catch and rip your shirt. (analogy by Sheikh Sadullah Khan)

I have experienced, like many, how difficult it is to wake up before the sun rises to eat. I once read in The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari-

“You will always feel a little discomfort when installing a new habit. It’s sort of like breaking in a new pair of shoes- at first it’s a little hard to wear them but soon they fit like a glove.”

The book goes on to explain that pain is often a precursor to personal growth, so we can’t dread it. Rather one should embrace it.

For me Ramadan is a time of self-reflection and appreciating where I am in life with respect to other individuals who are less privileged. Reminiscing on and being thankful for the things I have.

More than that, I believe Ramadan brings a sense of balance and Taqwa, awareness. Awareness of my environment, consciousness in what I am saying and doing, and realization in how I can improve.  For me, this first comes as an individual then as a contributor to the growth and progress of society.

The most gripping thing I have found during Ramadan is how to manage the ego in disciplining myself to wake up everyday before sunrise. I have failed at doing this many times and most likely will for times to come. However, realizing the weakness has been my first step. As I try to be a more understanding person, my goal is that through all the fasting and non-fasting, through all the times of being conscious and being unaware, I hope to be able to learn and carry my actions forward past Ramadan, through Eid and into the forth coming months.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

When Music Crosses Styles, Sounds, and Generations…

Alright, tonight I am going to do it a little different. Music. As long as I can remember, I have always been listening to music. My interest in music comes most likely from the fact that I can always remember my dad listening to great music.  Everything from flamenco guitar, to classical Indian music, to Enrico Macias (French), to old Afghan Music, to Sonny and Cheer’s Little Man. At the same time, I was still keeping up with the current pop culture. Everything makes my list, from Boys to Men, to 2Pac, to Audioslave and Michael Buble.

Growing up, I had the experience in high school to see my friends make bands and attempt to break into the music industry. Some of my closest classmates and friends have been able to do so, however, a majority are still trekking along. One of my past times is to find new music and be exposed to what is being produced in all different genres.

I was introduce to a Canadian rapper named K-os (it’s pronounced Chaos and stands for Knowledge of Self) by my friend Vishal (a great music connoisseur). K-os’ unique talents has taken him to the top of charts with multiple platinum records in Canada, did I mention he has 48,000 friends on MySpace. His award’s definitely don’t create a short list. K-os has been nominated and has won everything from Best Pop Video, to Best Songwriter, to Fan Choice Award. In 2004, Crabbuckit became one of Canada’s top singles. In this music video, K-os definitely not a stranger to celebrities, Nelly Furtado appears in K-os’ music video. So why has K-os yet to break into the United States, the single place where artists become legends?

I believe Malcolm Gladwell attempts to answer this question in his book Blink in the chapter titled: Kenna’s Dilemma: The Right- and Wrong- Way to Ask People What They Want. This was the point in my life when Gladwell introduced me to Kenna. An amazingly talented artist, Kenna has revolutionized my iTunes’ Top 25 Most Played list. Coolfer said it best, “His [Kenna] live shows, often performed to a crowd who had never even heard of him, instantly converted the crowd into fans”. But Gladwell explains to the readers how Kenna was recieved to the public, “The people who had a way to structure their first impressions, the vocabulary to capture them, and the experience to understand them, loved Kenna and in a perfect world, that would have counted for more than the questionable findings of market research.”

Gladwell writes, “The first impressions of experts are different. By that I don’t mean that experts like different things than the rest of us–although that is undeniable. When we become expert in something, our tastes grow more esoteric and complex. What I mean is that it is really only experts who are really able to account for their reactions.” (Blink is about how people need only a split second to make a decision about something, if you want an interesting counter to Gladwell’s Blink, take a look at Michael LeGault’s Think)

Now back to the original topic, why are two individuals who are amazingly talented artists (they even come up together on the same play list on my Pandora), have yet to break into mainstream America? When taking a look at the lyrics, both K-os and Kenna offer an alternative to Akon’s love, Brittney’s loneliness, and The Jonas Brothers’ singing about making the temperature hotter. K-os along with Kenna offer a unique talent of bringing together an upbeat sense of music, which doesn’t brain wash today’s society. And if it does, it is doing it in a positive way.

The problem is that sex sells, and anything related to sex: drugs and alcohol.  When unique artists, not limited to K-os and Kenna, bring their talent to the mainstream, people don’t appreciate the unique difference they present because they are different. The root of all problems, we are scared of what is different so we try to ignore what we fear or hide it away hoping it goes away. Rather, we should look at differences being a tool in creating awarness and knowledge.

Fortunately, Lupe Fiasco, one of the best rappers of the 21st century, released a remix to Say Goodbye to Love, which gives me hope that people still do listen to great music.

As K-os said, “It seems that we all fear the ending of our ‘selves,’ but in reality we fear losing all the things we ‘know,’ especially who we THINK we are.”

p.s. one of my favorites of Kenna – Kenna- Freetime on YouTube

p.p.s. one of my favorites of K-os – K-os- The Love Song

UPDATE: Kenna song makes PSP Commercial

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

The Gold Medal for Best Olympic Sport Goes To…

I am so sad that the Olympics are over. The Olympics represent so much to the world, expect for Russian Federation who should have waited 2 more weeks before invading Republic of Georgia in spirits of the Olympic Games. I mean, Georgia did get 3 Gold and 3 Bronze medals but no excuses.

I thought I do something fun this time. We know that there is swimming, and running, and gymnastics, but what about the sports that were not heavily televised. You know, the sports you watch and look at the person sitting next to you and say, “I did not know Baseball was an Olympic sport!”

Yes! You heard it right! The Bronze Medal goes to … Baseball! An American sport that would let us try to squeeze in another medal. Please, not more. No football! Let me put this straight. Baseball is an amazing American, Yankee sport and that is it. I think more people tuned in on Hawaii beating Mexico during the little league world series than watch America take the Bronze. Only 8 teams participated while football (soccer) had 16 teams participate. I am sure there were some qualifiers, however, I find it interesting that both Baseball and Badminton were made official Olympic medal sports at the same time. Yet, only badminton will be an Olympic medal sport in the London 2012 games.

I mean…when was the last time you traveled in a country outside of North America and saw a baseball field?!

I would like to award the silver medal to…Trampoline! Trampoline gymnastics debuted at the Sydney 2000 Games featuring both men’s and women’s individual events. Enough said.

Alrighty. Drum roll…. Gold Medal goes to not only one of the oldest Olympic sports (since 1906), but most likely one of the biggest poked at sports- Race Walking. Rules are simple- the walker’s front foot must be on the ground when the rear foot is raised. Also, the front leg must straighten when it makes contact with the ground.

Absolutely nothing but respect for all Olympic Athletes, but there has to be some explanations. Can someone who walks 50k run it in a faster time? Why not just a steady jog? Should we bring back the 1920 Tug-of-War? In much the same way that golfers, cheer leaders, and yo-yoers are athletes, should we introduce darts?

Honorable mentions go to: THE REDEEM TEAM!!! Men’s Field Hockey, the Jamaican’s who no long hide in the shadow of John Candy in the 1993 hit Cool Runnings, and high hopes to having cricket adopted in the …Mumbai 2020 Olympics, anyone?

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Orange County Great Park, A New Kind of Park…

I went to a park on Sunday that is still in developments and won’t be complete anytime soon. However, what has been done thus far is mind blowing and what is coming in the up coming years will define a 21st century park. On an old marine base on the boarder of Irvine and El Toro exists a huge orange helium balloon that goes as high as 400 ft (FAA regulations set balloon max height t 500 ft). As I pulled into the parking lot that was built from old high ways and I neared the entrance of the Great Park I felt not only like a child who finds an open swing, but also knew how it feels to live in the eco-conscious environment of the 21st century. The balloon flys Thursdays-Sundays mornings and evenings…FOR FREE!!! Yes, you read correctly, you get to not only enjoy one of the most non-natural sustainable parks in the world, but also hop into a helium air balloon!

The Great Park was designed by Ken Smith (designer of the Third Street Light Rail Project in San Francisco) after he won the design competition. The Great Park was created in an effort to provide the 21st century a self-sustaining park that would span from walking through canyons, lakes and a cultural terrace. Here also will exist Orange County’s largest Sports Complex, botanical gardens, and restoration and management of the habitat home to everything from the Kangaroo Rat, to Buckwheat, to the California Quail, to the Bobcat.

All this fun, but how is it paid for? Well aside from funding from the Lennar Corporation, there is also fees totaling no more than 1% of property value which is added to base of the property tax resulting in $201 million for infrastructure and park development in addition to funds for ongoing maintenance. I guess price comes with a cost, but we are talking about a place which brings the community together on so many different levels: Personal health, Regional Health, Global Health which encompases Energy, Nature, Materials, People and Water.

Okay, now you ask how does such a wonderful park get started? It began with a donation from Lennar Corporation who purchased a large sum (4,700 acres to be exact) of land from the Navy for $649 million in Feburary 2005. Then the Lennar Corporation donated 1,347 acres to the City of Irvine for the Orange County Great Park and agreed to pay an additional $200 million for future development and maintenance of the Park.

Some things are too good to be true. If you look at the land that surrounds the Great Park, it is all open. In less than 10 years from now homes will be built like legos, on all 3,700 acres of it. What has been done is a clever move from the Lennar Corporation which has been building homes since the 1950s. The thought here is build one of the worlds largest and sustainable parks of the 21st century, get people to come to it, ride the balloon for free, increase the value of the property and there you have it= beautiful over priced California homes.

Yet, I still cannot discredit what the Great Park stands for. Green. Sustainable. Renewable. This is one sphere where political constituencies did not  trump public open space. This is a place for our families. I certainly echo Los Angeles Times’ architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne when he named the Great Park as one of his best picks.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Solar Powered Africa-LED Lanterns Lighting the Way…

I have been working hard recently with two friends, Nikhil Arora and Ryan Panchadsaram, to submit a proposal for a competition American Express is hosting in which they are donating $2.5 million to fund global humanitarian projects. The winners of the project are decided largely upon the number of votes and nominations from the public, so we would really appreciate your support as we try to bring solar powered lighting to Sierra Leone. All three of us strongly believe in the idea and would love to use the funding in order to make our project dream come true.

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YouTube Video: Solar Powered Africa – LED Lanterns Lighting the Way

Project Team:
Ali Ansary, Nikhil Arora, Ryan Panchadsaram

Project Idea:

Our idea is to provide solar powered LED (Light Emitting Diode) lanterns to rural, war-torn regions of Sierra Leone. LED lights have shown to be a reliable and sustainable source of light with over 50,000 hours of available life. We would like to provide each household in various Sierra Leone villages with a lantern in order to provide light and make up for the lack of infrastructure. With $1.5m, we aim to provide approximately 20,000 lanterns, which could positively affect nearly 100,000 people.

The Problem:

In many underdeveloped nations of the world, finding a light switch that works usually comes as a miracle. Sierra Leone has suffered as being one of the most war-torn nations of the 21st century, and as such, faces serious infrastructure issues that deny many citizens the basic resource of light. Light for centuries has allowed life to become less dependent on the time when the sun is out and has extended the hours of the day to allow families to become more productive.

The Impact:

By introducing a sustainable, solar powered energy model for light, children can read at night, women and men can maintain their responsibilities to the family and community in the evenings, and life no longer remains dependent on non-renewable resources for light. If shown to be successful, we hope that with further funding we can extend this sustainable model of providing light to other under served regions of the world.

Light it up…
Please show your support for this project by getting involved and actually voting. Steps to vote:
1) If you have an AMEX card, go to http://www.membersproject.com/project/view/QLZ2W1 , click
“Nominate this Project,” and then sign in using your AMEX account info
2) If you DO NOT have an AMEX card:
a. Go to : https://www.membersproject.com/registration/guest_signup.html
and sign up.
b. Then, go to http://www.membersproject.com/project/view/QLZ2W1 and click “Nominate this
Project”

Also, be sure to invite your friends to this facebook group.

If nothing else, we’re trying to create awareness about the issue so it might spark someone else’s imagination and a new, better idea to deal with this issue might emerge.
| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Google, Have You Seen My North Face Jacket…

It has been missing for a few weeks now. Usually the nice grey jacket that protects me from the  non-blistering California winds that split through me has gone missing. Searching everywhere and thinking about places that I might have worn it and placed it last gave me no help.

As I continued to think, I found comfort on my desk chair where I saw my laptop open and Google set as my home page. I thought to myself, if my jacket were some bit of information that I can find on the web, I could just google it.

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Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
goo·gle
Pronunciation:
\ˈgü-gəl\
Function:
transitive verb
Inflected Form(s):
goo·gled; goo·gling Listen to the pronunciation of googling \-g(ə-)liŋ\
Usage:
often capitalized
Etymology:
Google, trademark for a search engine
Date:
2001
: to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web

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Unfortunately, my addiction to technology has not only forced me to take constant sabbaticals from my twitter, facebook, gmail, blog, and all the RSS feeds from multiple news sources but also Google (my number one source of knowledge for anytime I may have a question).

As smart phones become ‘smarter’, people are not paying for minutes or texts. Rather, they are paying to have the entire world in the palm of their hands. For me, Google (and now maybe Cuil ) has become one of the gateways that has provided me access to all this useful/useless information. Unfortunately, I have begun to notice that my habit of Googling people, dates, reports, journals, news articles, etc…has made my memory a bit weak. As my research professor, Dr. Leonard Sender , would call it Google Assisted Memory (GAM). I just thank God I am starting school again in the fall.

Has my memory begun to fade at age 22? Nicolas Carr from The Atlantic wrote a great article on this particular topic: What the internet is doing to our brains.

You can read it here: Is Google Making Us Stupid?

In an interview with NPR, Carr says that while the Internet allows us to get lots of information very quickly, it also encourages us not to look at it very thoughtfully. In fact, Carr argues, when we give in to the natural impulses to click and skim, rather than to read and think, the Internet may actually be doing us a disservice: It shortens our attention spans and even inhibits our ability to read longer books and articles.

Carr says it best, “The Internet is a machine designed for the efficient and automated collection, transmission, and manipulation of information, and its legions of programmers are intent on finding the “one best method”—the perfect algorithm—to carry out every mental movement of what we’ve come to describe as “knowledge work.”

Well, I am definitely not off to read neither War and Peace nor Anna Karenina . What I am going to do is look for my North Face Jacket hoping that I can find it somehow before Google figures it out before me.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Mouse Party…

Mouse Party

I remember when I was in college I knew a guy who always complained of a tooth ache. Weeks went by and he would never eat anything because of his tooth. One day I bumped into him on in front of Sproul Hall and I asked him how is tooth was. He said it was fine. I was glad to hear that he finally saw a dentist, but when I he told me that he hadn’t I asked how he solved his problem. He was quick to answer: cocaine.

Of COURSE! Cocaine is sometimes used as a topical (applied to the surface layer) anesthetic.

Heroin, Ecstasy, Marijuana, Methamphetamine, Alcohol, Cocaine, and LSD…all drugs that of us are familiar with. One is legal in the US of A, a handful are gate way drugs used by many high schoolers and college students. Now, the University of Utah has developed a clever way to teach their students of how these drugs affect the chemistry of the brain. At the Genetics Learning Center at the University of Utah, professors are using a unique way to teach how drugs alter the brain’s reward pathway.

Mouse Party1

For example, here you are told that alcohol particularly effects areas of the brain involved in memory function, decision making and impulse control. Then you are taken into the brain of a mouse.

Just a fun thing I thought I share. You can play with it here:

The New Science of Addiction : Mouse Party

P.S. For some of you non-science people, Dopamine, Serotonin, GABA are different types of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that relay, amplify and modulate signals.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

The Return of Snowball…

In 1949 George Orwell presented to the world Nineteen Eighty-Four , a book that would impact the way we perceive our own government and the manipulation through different controlling processes over its citizenry. However, four years earlier his book Animal Farm would give us a preview of not only Nineteen Eighty-Four , but also a glimpse of the Russian Revolution and resulting in the creating of the Soviet Union- one of the most powerful totalitarian governments of the 20th century.

I was in Italy a few weeks ago on a train from Cinque Terra to Venice when I decided to reminisce my middle school readings. The first on the list was Orwell’s Animal Farm . This 112 page book was perfect- the book is short with big fonts, which I am a fan of! What made me more excited, however, was Orwell’s ability to capture what occurred in Russia with the rise of Stalin (this would be Napoleon the Berkshire boar) and the ousting of Trotsky (who was one of the original leaders of the Russian October Revolution and in the book portrayed by Snowball, another Berkshire boar).

Animal Farm

Upon my return to the US of A a few weeks ago, I decided to indulge myself into the meaning of what I had read in Animal Farm . So like any other person who is a product of the Web 2.0 revolution, I did a simple Google search where then I selected Wikipedia and came across John Reed (although some symbolism, but no not the 1900′s journalist who was known for his first hand account of the October Revolution in Ten Days that Shook the World ) who a few weeks after 9/11 wrote Snowball’s Chance . This was a revisionist retelling of Orwell’s Animal Farm .

As the title implies, this allegorical story describes what happens once all the Berkshire boars begin to die and Snowball returns to the Manor Farm (if you remeber after Napoleon in Animal Farm had the revolution, they changed the name of the farm from Manor Farm to Animal Farm then finally back to Manor Farm). Until then Snowball had only been a myth- Animal Hero, First Class, of the Battle of Cowshed. Interesting enough Snowball enters the farm walking straight on two hoofs along with Thomas, a goat who had conferred the degrees of Doctor, Lawyer, Architect, and Engineer (sounds like a Berkeley student).

Snowball's Chance

Snowball immediately assumes power, but he plays more of the back scene guy while Minimus (and eventually Pinkeye) play the head of the farm. Much similar to the way Dick Cheney is to Bush. In this satire, Snowball builds a corporate society that allows every animal to seek the highest standard of living by working hard. Instead of one windmill, two windmills (the Twin Mills) are built next to each other  to represent the new growth and success of Animal Farm. As cash began to be limited, credit was instituted and franchises such as Duncan Dognuts were established.

What Reed does well is describing the rise of terrorism as seen through Snowball’s relationship with the Diso and the beavers of the Woodland. Snowball begins to train the beavers how to defend themselves from traps that were set up the other farms. Since the beavers would build dams and prevent water flow from the farms, the beavers were beginning to die from the dams being blown up or from beaver traps.The beavers at the same time represented a more religious group of individuals, and they were told stories of how Animal Farm was this secular society that rejected the preachings of Moses, the Raven that would talk about Sugarcandy Mountain.

What makes the novel is how Reed was able to translate this book to make today’s society able to relate the issues faced on the Animal Farm. In the book the beavers represent the Muslims that were trained and supplied with American weapons during the Cold War. Eventually the Americans forgot about the situation in Afghanistan (instead of helping to rebuild) and what eventually resulted was a breeding ground for people like Osama Bin Laden (in the book portrayed as Diso, the head beaver who saw Snowball as weak with overextended pursuits). At one point Diso alludes to the 1600 virgin saplings which awaited believers- especially those who died for the right reasons. This concept is from the martydome of the terrorists who are told that they will be rewarded in the afterlife (even though suicide is forbidden in the Qur’an).

Okay… well I am not going through go through the entire book, because that is for you all to go read. However, John Reed is a clever writer and does a unique job in writing this satire of what would happen if Snowball returned to the farm in a post 9/11 society. What I enjoyed most was the ability for Reed to continue where Orwell left off and how much we sometimes we do act like "animals".

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

One of History’s Celebrities…

The definition of a celebrity is an individual who is widely known. Thus, I would like to share a short story and my encounter with a beautiful woman who has changed the way many of us have perceived her on different levels, whose enigmatic presence has created controversies. Some even go as far as questioning her sex and her age today would be well over 500 years old.

Her estate is over 650,000 square feet, which is 12 times that of the White House. Deep through her corridors and past the decorative historical art work that rests on the walls and the ancient Greek statues. Up her marble stairs and through another extensively exhausting hall  and once you have started to feel bleary you now enter her $7.5 million dollar room.

According to Bloomberg News, with over 8.3 million visitors in 2007, the Mona Lisa is one of the most celebrated and remembered paintings in the world. She is valued at over $600 million and rests peacefully behind a climate controlled bullet proof case in the Salle des États at the Louvre in Paris, France. I had an opportunity for the second time to rekindle my experience with Da Vinci’s master piece and so I decided to remember her by snapping a photo.

And no matter how many times I see the Mona Lisa, or La Gioconda, what was more impressive to me what people do in the 15 seconds they have with one of history’s celebrities.

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I also wanted to give a shot out to one of my favorite artists, known for his surrealism, but further his work with Dadaism – Marcel Duchamp. His work has been something that has always stuck in my mind after seeing it. Dadaism mostly focused on anti-war during WWI through art works, which makes me realize what anti-Iraq war artists will be painting. One of the most famous works by Duchamp is L.H.O.O.Q. Translation: “Elle a chaud au cul” (She has a Hot Ass).

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Life in the Tube…


As I arrived in London my impression was similar to my previous visits, “Wow, this place is clean!” The closest thing that I have utilized in terms of a underground subway system is the BART in the Bay Area or NYC’s Subway system-both of which differ like day and night. However, the underground in London gave me a different impression. Not only was the underground efficient and on time, in a very socialist Mussolini way when he had his trains run “on time”, but this was the only time I saw, what I would consider, the unremembered talent of London.

I certainly don’t want to discredit any individual in that no two individual’s struggles are comparable. However, imagine staying in one place for hours on end and having thousands of people walk by you and only a small fraction of them stop to listen, and a small fraction toss their cents- most of them being tourists like myself. Sounds a lot like Berkeley huh? What I wanted to show here are the extents people go to make a couple extra pounds (GBP)…

Or it can be the opposite. Where the only person you are playing for is the guy who gave you 50 pents and asked to take your picture.

For some, what was interesting, is that age didn’t matter in who was trying to just jam and make the underground there scene.

But I think the best is when you play from the heart…and it doesn’t matter who is around, because for a musician- (as I was once told)- “A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.”

Now I open it up- funny or serious- if you had to (or had an opportunity to -depending on how you look at it) do your thing in the underground… what would you do?

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

The Cost of Giving…

We have all been exposed to the cliche saying “it is better to give than to receive.” Well in today’s society we are seeing this giving done in very astute ways. Let me start with a couple examples.

The first classic example is the Fruit Stripe chewing gum, with lavish colorful stripes and temporary tattoos that many of us bought when we were kids. If we take the time to actually exam the wrappers, a portion of the proceeds were actually donated to the World Wildlife Fund. This was 1996 for many of us.

Now in 2008 we see new and unique ways that humanitarians are using their skills to contribute to greater causes. For you Cal Alums- Hope Winery, a local company started by a recent UC Berkeley Alumnus, Jacob Kloberdanz has a ties together selling wine and his support for a greater cause. Jake’s wines are unique in that each wine supports a different social cause, with a large portion of the profits from each bottle donated to support breast cancer, autism, or AIDS research.

Finally, two of my personal favorites are Shepard Fairey’s poster of Barack Obama and Tom’s shoes. Many of you know Fairey for his street art for Obey. However, Fairey is a contemporary artist who did an amazing piece of Obama and has 5000 copies that are for sale (sold out) and all proceeds go directly to the Obama campiagn.

Tom’s Shoes was introduced to me by my best friend Jason as “flats for guys” (although they do have shoes for the ladies too).

Tom's Shoes

The cause behind Tom’s shoes is giving one pair of shoes to children throughout the world for every shoe you buy. As my friend Kent had done in a generous gesture, he purchased one for himself and donated the other pair on behalf of our friend Randy. Now you can change up your style with a unique twist knowing that you can’t feel guilty for the next retail therapy session you go through.

So what is my point- my personal hobby has always been taking photos, and from times to time I feel like I can capture a nice photo. However, for now on as I do a series of prints from my expeditions or collections, I will be donating proceeds from each series to organizations that relate to the theme of my series. For example-

Vernal Falls

Any profit from this photo (hopefully some day) will be donated to STARO (Save The Amazon Rainforest Organisation) [I am sure many of you may wonder why not donate to Yosemite, the quick answer is that Yosemite trees are not being cut down at the rate at which the Amazon is]. However, I hope to open up suggestions also to great causes that I may not be familiar with.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Laugh more…

Well, it has taken me a very long time to finally get a blog up. However, now that it is up I can express all my inner thoughts, perspectives, or just ramble.

I initially wanted to try to set this blog up a couple weeks ago when I spoke to a friend of mine on how to set up a blog. He recommended WordPress so I thought I could try to set it up. Well I failed. Then I spent a whole evening trying to recommit to sharing my thoughts with the world wide web, but again I failed. I believe my reason to keep going in this small battle was my own stubbornness in proving to myself that I have not fallen to old age (I am only 22), and that I can keep up with the everlasting changes in technology!

I generally try to keep up with as much as I can thus- I hope to share with you all- Science/Medicine, BioTech/Pharma, Technology, and a lot of Politics and Photos. I am really not sure what you would call this blog aside from a hodgepodge of thoughts.

I felt that as people begin to outline Web 3.0 (semantic web/AI), that I should catch up with Web 2.0 at least.

So what next- I would like to clean up the design of this blog upon my trip back from Europe. I would also like to start out by slowly formulating thoughts and ideas to keep this blog up.

The goal is now – how do I get readers?

As I close out my first blog, I would like to give a special thank you to Suchit & his friend Senthil for initial guidance and to Ryan P for the simple links that allowed me to finally create this blog (9.5 hrs later).

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |