Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How Doctors Think: A review

How Doctors Think How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a phenomenal book that changed the way I looked at every doctor's visit I've ever had, along with questioning at least one diagnosis from my past.

Groopman told story after story about how once one doctor gives you a diagnosis, most other doctors will shut down their "cognitive reasoning" and never question that diagnosis and will keep trying to treat something you may not have. In some stories, this resulted in the death of a patient. He also talks about how physician lore and influence from drug and device companies perpetuate incorrect diagnoses and treatments.

For a personal example of a bad diagnosis sticking, I was diagnosed with carpel tunnel syndrome by a nurse practitioner who referred me to an orthopedic surgeon, who confirmed the diagnosis and was ready to operate. I then was lucky to meet my friend's cousin, a Harvard Med student, who within moments said "you don't even have the right symptoms for carpel tunnel - you have a pinched nerve in your neck and any surgery to your wrist would just cause you more pain and discomfort". My problem was corrected by a series of chiropractic adjustments - no surgery and now I'm pain free (and have been for years).

One poignant set of examples in the book that really stuck with me was about spinal fusion surgeries - these are very common and are well reimbursed by insurance companies, yet there is little evidence that they cure low back and extremity pain. There is little follow up done by the actual surgeons to see how the procedure impacted quality of life, and when follow up is done and the patient hasn't improved, they are simply told "well, you're one of the people this treatment doesn't help". Basically, if you don't have a spinal tumor or an actual broken back, back surgery probably won't help and will likely make things worse!

Groopman keeps things real by even referencing his own mistakes.

This book isn't a scary book, but rather one that gets you to think more about your own health and teaches you how to communicate with your doctor to help them keep out of the cognitive traps and really question what *else* could be wrong with you.

It is a must read for everyone! Really!

Thank you, Stormy, for recommending this. I wish I had read it years before!

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sun Carolers do it again!

The Sun Carolers did it again this year, touring the campus and delighting our fellow employees! This year was different, though - it was caught on video!

I can't embed this first one, but please check it out: The 12 Bugs of Christmas!

These other two were recorded by Deirdre Straughan and feature "I'll Be Home For Christmas", "Merry Christmas, Happy New Year" (ala Hallelujah chorus), "Carol of the Bells", "Jingle Bells", "Hanukah, Oh, Hanukah" (partial), and "Let it Snow". Enjoy!

'Tis the Season for Giving

This is the time of year that we all get pinged by charities hoping to talk us all into a last minute charitable (and in the US, tax-deductible) donation. Separating the wheat from the chaff is a challenge, but with sites like Charity Navigator, it's easier than ever before.

Then along came Jen Yates, of Cake Wrecks fame, and she's doing the coolest thing: using her massive quantity of blog followers to do GOOD! For 14 days this month, Jen and her husband are selecting a charity to give at least $200 to and asking her minions^H... followers to each give just a dollar to these same charities that she has prescreened for us. It is so inspiring to see how many wells for clean water will be available now, how many children will have meals, how many homes can be built, etc. just due to this super simple plan. Jen's appeals appear at the end of each of her daily wreckports, and are neither preachy nor too pleading.

I've found myself giving a few dollars each day to each of these charities - and am so impressed at how quickly a lot of people just giving a bit can add up so fast! Jen's even made a "round-up" page if you want to catch up on the giving!

In addition to those charities, I've lent my support this season to Second Harvest Food Bank, The Family Giving Tree, Heifer International, West Valley Light Opera, Purdue University (Women in Science & Computer Science funds), and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.

It seems in this day and age, everyone needs a little bit more help to stay afloat. If you can, help out the Cake Wrecks charity drive - even a dollar or two adds up when enough people participate. Where are you giving this season?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Number of women on staff == "Best Place To Work" ?

I've read countless "Best Place to Work" lists over the years, and usually happy to find Sun on those lists (and knowing when it was missing that the people compiling the list obviously asked the wrong questions if they missed a wonderful company like this one).

The latest list I saw today, posted on Brazen Careerist's site, took a different approach - while specifically looking for companies that would be attractive to Gen Y (aka Millennials) - the looked at companies that offered a lot of flexibility. Realizing that nearly every company now-a-days self reports as being very flexible, the authors decided to use the metric of number of women employed being close to at least 50%.The rationalization was that women wouldn't tolerate a company that didn't offer true flexibility.

My first response was, "Cool! Who doesn't want to work with more women?!", and then I remembered that my teams have always been the exception (often with near 50% women, and never an all white team) - not sure why that is, are women just more attracted to security? But I digress...I know my personal experience is not the norm.

Sun wasn't on that list. In fact, only two tech companies (Google & Yahoo) were, and I realized, that's probably because the saturation of women in technology is nowhere near 50%, so even tech companies that are very flexible and have "lots" (as a relative term) of women would not have qualified for this list. What do you think? Should we be using a different metric for gender equality for tech companies? or just hope that the trend reverses and women start joining the tech force in droves?

Sun is a fantastic place to work and very flexible, btw, as recognized by many other lists - and by me :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Team Salty Dawgs Rides Again! Can you do it?

It may seem a bit early... but if you don't have plans for June 26, 2010, how about coming up to wine country with us and riding 30, 66, or 100 miles to raise money for the American Lung Association!? We'll make lung disease walk the plank! Argh, mateys! :)

Why am I bringing this up now? You can save $20 on the registration fee by registering before December 31, 2009. So, it's only $30 right now! The ride is wonderful and the support is great. Minimum fund raising is $150 - but you have more than 6 months to do it in, so it'll be easy!

This is my first year attempting 100 miles - I may end up only doing 66, but I'm going to train for the 100 and hopefully pull it off! I'm a slow rider, though...but anyone that wants to join the team can know that you can ride faster with Mark :)

So, what do you say? Ready to ride?! Sign up on the team page!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sysadmins: do you like answering questions?

A debate started up in our hallway over the last few days, and while I am aware that this is water under the bridge, I am curious - am I the only person that likes answering questions while installing an OS?

Before I came to Sun, I was a system administrator. I administered systems running AIX, HPUX, IRIX, Solaris, SunOS, WinNT, Win95, and Win3.1. When installing the OS or any software, I always choose "custom install" or "advanced install". I like having that choice, as the software invariably makes the wrong choices for me. At the very least, I like being able to validate the choices the software has made before they are committed to disk. I am impressed when the software can correctly figure most things out, if it can, but no software, in my opinion, can possibly predict the correct answers for all installations.

There is a lot of lore here in Sun that system administrators and developers don't like all the questions we used to ask during installation of Solaris, which is why this has changed so drastically for OpenSolaris. My experience, though, is limited only to my own and those administrators I worked with at Intel and Amoco (BP, now), so I'm curious - what do you think? Do you abhor questions during install time of software? Or would you rather have the option to review the choices it made for you? Or make the choices yourself?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Monk's Kettle: November Beer Pairing Dinner!

I can't think of a better reason to take the train up to San Francisco than the Monk's Kettle's Beer Pairing dinner. My second (or was it third?) beer dinner there was the November 4th event hosted by Firestone Walker Brewing Company. We all got comfortable and finished our happy hour beers (note to self: happy hour beer not necessary when dinner comes with 6 beers) in our seats along the kitchen. It took me awhile to write this up, as I left my notes there and had to return again to retrieve them (for December's dinner). :)

Our host welcomed us and quickly told us, "No driving. The training wheels are off. These are real beers," and beer service began! All of these beers were barrel aged and got their primary fermentation in oak barrels, and they got stronger as the night went on.

We started with a nice English style pale ale poured from the cask, Double Barrel Ale. It was light and fruity, coming in at a nice 5%. This was paired with a delightful crostini with white bean puree and olive tapenade. YUM! This small amuse-bouche was delicious and a great way to start.

The salad course was served with a saison, Lil' Opal. We learned that this beer was actually an accident when it was created when a batch of Big Opal ended up too much sugar. I love happy little surprises like this! We all loved this beer, for its lemony and sweet flavor, with just a touch of hoppiness. My friend Lucas said, "It tastes like when doves cry". An unexpected and apt 80s references. but... then the salad came. The salad itself (red Belgian endives, baby letuces, shaved red onion, pomegranate seeds and feta) was delicious, but the "Lil' Opal Vinaigrette" did not pair well with the beer, changing the flavor to a distinctly PBR taste. Not terrible, but nowhere near as good as the beer tasted without the food. In the future, I hope that Chef Kevin stays away from vinegar in these dinners.

My favorite course was the house-cured bacon stuffed dates drizzled with a balsamic reduction and topped with pickled shallots, served with house made cheddar bread. They came with Walker's Reserve, a very robust porter. Four pounds of oatmeal go into each barrel, along with chocolate malt and cascade hops. The beer I could've repeated this course several times - delicious!

(Yes, I know Balsamic is a vinegar, but in this reduction, it was sweet and not acidic.)

The main course was "A Drunken Lamb, A Rare Bird" - the lamb leg had been marinated in the beer that was paired with the course, Black Xantus, and came out very tender and the match was made in heaven. The Black Xantus was a Russian Imperial Stout, made with Mexican coffee which made for a slightly bitter, but very nice, flavor. This is a beer that can really get you in trouble, coming in at 11% ABV!

For dessert, the scrumptious chocolate fondant cake was served hot with a side of Chantilly cream and mint. There were also some "drunken Fuyu persimmons", but they had been left in the "cheap" bourbon a bit too long and we couldn't really eat them.

The bonus? Dessert came with two beers! Yay! Abucus, which was an American Barleywine coming in at 12% ABV, paired wonderfully with the chocolate cake, with its own dark cherry and chocolate flavors soaring when enjoyed together with the cake. I also enjoyed the Firestone Twelve (which had been cellared for one year), another 12% ABV. The Twelve had been aged in bourbon and brandy barrels, and then blended.

I really enjoy these dinners, as there is no rush, service is outstanding, and you get to hear directly from the brewers so you fall in love with the beer as much as they have. And while the event is not rushed, the staff is aware that we've all come via public transport and we always finish with time to pay the bill and get to the Caltrain station. :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cake Wrecks: a delighfully silly read!

Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong by Jen Yates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a silly book that has you laughing out loud and scratching your head as you wonder, "what *were* they thinking?!".

I'm a big fan of the website, so I've seen a lot of the material before - but loved how Yates added new cakes and additional background for some of the others. While this is no major literary accomplishment, it is a great way to pass time on a plane or with family or friends.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Solaris Security Essentials is Out!

I found out just before going on Thanksgiving break, by searching Amazon myself, that I am now a published author! Solaris 10 Security Essentials
is officially released!

I would've thought the publisher would've let us know, but apparently that's not unusual. All the same, I am so excited to be counted among the elite of the published author! We debuted #68,242 on Amazon's Best Seller list, and climbed to the top 20,000 by the end of the week! And since publication, we're now available on the Kindle!

While the title suggests this is only for Solaris 10, all of the concepts are applicable to OpenSolaris as well, though some of the examples may differ slightly in OpenSolaris. In fact, the working title had been "Solaris Security Essentials" and I wasn't even aware of the change until I saw it on Amazon. :)

Writing a book was such an interesting process! Starting with just a basic idea from our director about writing a book about what we all do and love, to all of us contributing suggestions for what topics would be interesting, volunteering to write specific chapters, generating outlines, arguing with the publisher about why 80 column width was required for command line related text, and working with great co-authors, editor and project manager to see the finished product! *whew*

The book is also available on Safari and in brick & mortar bookstores everywhere.

I am so proud of each and every one of us for pulling together and getting this project completed. Let me know what you think of the book!