Russell's Blog

New. Improved. Stays crunchy in milk.

UC Davis, meet the internet.

Posted by Russell on January 12, 2010 at 1:42 a.m.
One of the wonderful things about web applications is that they can be available 24-7. They can sit there and quietly do their jobs -- taking orders, billing credit cards, assigning work orders, or whatever -- even when the office is empty. That's one of the main reasons one would go to the trouble of putting a web front end on something in the first place.

So, the question of the evening is, does the UC Davis registrar know this?

Um... no.

This is a completely automated process. If you do this during the daytime, it just goes ahead and populates a table in whatever chthonic legacy database system that is swaddled in this blob of early 1990's vintage web programming. It's not like having the office open at the time actually helps.

Attention Amazon.com shoppers! It's 4:45 Central Time, and Amazon.com will be closing for the day in 15 minutes! Please complete your order before the site is disconnected for the evening. We will open again tomorrow at 8:30 A.M. Thank you for shopping at Amazon.com!

On the upside, at least it doesn't complain that my browser isn't supported. Yay.

Central serous retinopathy

Posted by Russell on January 08, 2010 at 11:06 a.m.
The eye doctor in Davis confirmed that my magical eye bubble is central serous retinopathy. Here's a much better picture (now also on Wikimedia Commons).

That volcano-shaped thing is supposed to be a little pit (that's what "fovea" means).

I'm a bit pissed off that the Zeiss optical coherence tomography machine that the doctor used to take this image evidently keeps the data locked up in a proprietary format, and can only exchange data with other Zeiss products. The doctor says he can't even save a screenshot. The only way I could get this picture was by snapping a photo of the display with my phone.

I'm impressed with the technology, and I'm happy to pay for it. It's much better than the machine used to take the image in my first post about this, and allowed for a quick and unambiguous diagnosis. I just don't want to pay more for it than it actually costs. Ziess is taking a page out of Microsoft's playbook here by leveraging proprietary data formats and locked-down data sharing to coerce doctors into buying their equipment instead of someone else's. Except, the stakes are higher for medical products.

Update -- On February 9, 2011, I had Photodynamic therapy at the UC Davis Medical Center, under the care of Professor Susanna Park and her clinical staff. The surgery itself seems to have been completely successful -- the "bubble" is gone. However, because I had it for so long (more than a year), there was some damage to the retina, probably due to oxygen deprivation. This is taking longer to heal.

The result is that he distortion, blurriness and discoloration are gone, but dimness is taking much longer to go away.

I'm not a medical doctor, of course, but I suspect that waiting makes the recovery take longer. My hypothesis is that the longer the retina is under pressure and loosing part of its blood supply to leakage, the longer it will take to recover.

Usually, CSR will go away by itself, but if it doesn't, don't be complacent about it. Listen to your doctor about how long to wait, and then stop waiting.

Checking in on my contribution to Wikipedia

Posted by Russell on January 08, 2010 at 12:06 a.m.
Back in May 2007, I decided I'd try writing a Wikipedia article. I can't remember why I was seized by the impulse. I think I was supposed to be studying for something, and I'd already cleaned the bathroom and organized my closet. I pondered for a some time on the problem of selecting a topic obscure enough not to have a page already, and yet not so obscure as to become a target for the dreaded Deletionist clan of Wikipedians.

And lo, the Tasty Bite page was born. Looking at the page traffic, I fear that it will eventually become my most widely read piece of writing.

Well, they are pretty tasty. Oh, and those very mediocre pictures? I took those myself, and then consumed the contents of the pouch. Also, my friend Srijak says there is no such thing as "Bombay Potatoes," but he eats them too.

Not to sugar-coat things, but...

Posted by Russell on January 03, 2010 at 12:33 p.m.
Dr. Robert Lustig at UCSF gave a very interesting public lecture for UCTV on the relationship between sugar consumption and a host of health problems, ranging from obesity to diabetes to gout. I won't reiterate his argument, but the kernel is that he has bestowed the term "poison" on fructose. By "poison," he means poison in the same sense that alcohol is a poison. Fructose and ethanol are both chemicals that causes health problems, and that only the liver handle. Keep in mind that if the body were a city, the liver would be the part of town with the scary industrial stuff, all pipes and loud noises smokestacks and funny smells.

In the lecture, he suggests that fruit isn't necessarily bad, because fruit tends to come along with fiber, and fiber slows down the rate at which the sugar hits your blood. This gives your gut microflora a chance to get at it and metabolize it into less harmful compounds (though with the unfortunate but health-neutral side effect of flatulence).

Anyway, this got me wondering. Which sugars are in which fruit? Not all sugars, or fruits, are equal. So, here's a nice chart I made from some data I found somewhere on the internet.

I computed the ranking by generating a "badness" index as follows :

It makes me a little sad to see apples, pears and mangos down there at the bottom, though I'm delighted to see avocados at the top. Also, I would like to remind you that not everything that is quantitative is scientific, and making a nice chart of some data you find on a random web page is certainly not scientific.