Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ebola at Dallas

First US Ebola infection occurred in Dallas, Nina Pham, a nurse who helped to treat the west African patient Thomas Eric Duncan, was the victim. Then a scare, a deputy sheriff from the area, was suspected of Ebola symptom. Shortly after a second nurse , Amber Vinson, was diagnosed with Ebola disease! The anxiety at DFW area about Ebola infection skyrocketed. Good news is that both nurses were cured of Ebola this week. DFW area calms down. 

It is NYC's turn for Ebola anxiety.

Despite the widely held believe that "Ebola is spread through direct contact with body fluids of a sick person; the remains of someone who has died of Ebola; or from exposure to objects such as needles that have been contaminated. Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or generally in food. It's only contagious if the infected individual is experiencing active symptoms and by direct contact as described above.", we still don't know how the two nurses got infected under protections.

What worried me the most at the beginning was the fact that people with Ebola risks did not observe recommended or mandatory quarantine. 

The Dallas nurse, Amber Vinson traveled during her quarantine period, travelling by air from DFW to Cleveland and back. She had low fever on the way back. 

Nancy Snyderman NBC news chief medical editor, whose cameraman was infected with Ebola during their trip to West Africa. Snyderman and her whole team were under mandatory quarantine upon return to US. She went out to a restaurant before quarantine was over. 

Craig Spencer, a NY physician, who returned from West Africa, had high risk of Ebola, was not allowed to go back to work, and was under self monitoring,  roamed around NY via subway, went to bowling. He was diagnosed of Ebola disease on Thursday!

My second worry was that government/medical authority was too lenient in enforcing quarantine, some officials showed their "compassion" at wrong time, wrong place on a wrong subject

For nurse Vinson, CDC cleared her travel despite the risk, and then made excuses that she was not symptomatic and downplayed the risk she had for general public. Nina Pham's dog was initially not isolated because some official wanted to show compassion, leading higher public anxiety and greater risk to general public in local area.

Nancy Synerman, a MD herself, half halfheartedly apologized for her violation of quarantine, claiming she knew she posed no risk. 

Spencer, despite his irresponsible behavior, was hailed by some media outlet as a great humanitarian. 

Gradually, DFW area authority, CDC, and now New York State enforce quarantine more forcefully.  I would say that Dallas county, city officials acted quickly, corrected mistakes promptly. The end result is that Ebola infections in DFW is limited to the two nurses (who are free of Ebola now) so far, public mood are calm now about Ebola.

With education on prevention, early detection of Ebola symptom, quick isolation and treatment, and strict quarantine enforcement, the Ebola disease should be contained in US.


1) With the coming flu season, we will have some confusions and more anxiety - since Ebola symptoms are very similar to flu with fever, especially stomach flu with fever. 

2) Resource: WHO website

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Friday Night TV Shows

Friday evenings and nights are lazy time for us: no real cooking and no work!

We used to dine out for dinner on Fridays for a long stretch of time when Lily worked at downtown. Then we switch to eat at home - but only easy cooking meals  - noodles, dumplings or pre-made Chinese pancakes.

Our favorite show after diner on TV has been Shark Tank on ABC for several years.

Shark Tank is a reality TV show about selected entrepreneurs of start-up small businesses seeking investment from a panel of investors - or "the Sharks".  We not only continue to enjoy the show, learn from the sharks and entrepreneurs, but also got to know the sharks pretty well - Mark is the shrewdest, Kevin is the meanest, Lori is sneaky, Barbara is straight shooting, Daymond is a nice guy and Robert has a soft heart. 

In addition, we actually bought a couple items from the small businesses featured on the shows. One item was a new design belt - which uses "teeth" for anchoring a belt instead of holes thus avoiding cracks at holes (shown in the photo). The other item is "wall doctor" - which is a dry wall repair kit, we used to repair a damaged dry wall.

This year another show on Friday night becomes our favorite - Last man standing - which airs ahead of Shark Tank. The show stars Tim Allen as Mike - a father of 3 daughters, with a geologist wife - thus the only man in the house. Tim was the star on the popular TV show Home Improvement which was my favorite show when I was at graduate school.

Mike is a true believer of traditional values and speaks his mind, an obvious conservative. On the other end of the political spectrum in the family is Mike's eldest daughter Kris and her boyfriend (and now husband). Politically the youngest daughter Eve is on Dad's side, middle daughter Mindy has no "political brain" - don't know and don't care. Mom Vanessa is the peacemaker on everything in the house -  she does not argue with her husband on politics but she is apparently liberal leaning.

It is a comedy show about a normal middle class family's life with light mix and right dose of politics - tremendously entertaining and relaxing.

Cristela is a new comedy inserted between Last man standing and shark tank. It is about a struggling  Mexican-American law school student Cristela living with his older sister's family and her mother at Dallas. The show is so far so good - light humor, clean jokes, and a realistic level of racial tension.

Starting with Last Man Standing  at 7pm, Cristela at 7:30om and Shark Tank at 8pm, all on ABC, these shows are clean, entertaining, enriching, and relaxing!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Problem Solving Skills - case study and reflection

The recovery of economy makes the talent market very competitive. Most people applied to the openings on my R & D teams have no related industrial experience at all. How can we find able and competent engineers to meet our needs?

In the resume screening process we focus on relevant knowledge foundation (e.g. majors, courses, degree levels), and relevant experiences (e.g. designs, testing, invention, and analysis). Once these basic requirements are met, the focus is shifted to problem solving skills and interpersonal skills including communication.

To evaluate candidates' problem solving skills, we typically ask them to solve problems that most likely they never see before, and may not be in the area of their expertise. The outcome is telling - those who can not work independently on their own freeze on this type of questions!

Today I was subjected to such a test at home.

Before lunch I decided to go up to attic to check if there was any damage with roof, chimney and wind turbine from the storms at midnight. As I opened the door to the attic, the entrance was partially blocked by a huge bundle of cables. I thought that the cables were for the discarded direct TV installation and were moved by a Verizon technician who installed FiOS. So I moved the cable away from the entrance to attic, in the process disconnected a couple of connections.

After attic inspection, I found out that I lost FiOS internet. I went back to the attic trying to reconnect the connections, there were so many loose ends and connections in the bundle, I did not remember which cables were disconnected by me. Looking at all the cables I determined the cables most likely related to the internet router,  I tried to reconnect a couple connections and was not successful.

I called Verizon helpline and verified that the router was not connected to FiOS. During the call I also found out that WAN cox and LAN cox indicators telling if the router and FiOS is connected. Since Verizon will charge $91 for first half hour and $46 for each additional half hour for a technician visit; and a technician is  not available until Tuesday. I made an appointment with Verizon for Tuesday but decided to fix it on my own.

I asked Lily to come to attic to help me. First she confirmed the identifications of the cables to the router. Then we identified a few cables not related to the router or incoming signal. Now only two connections and two cables remained relevant - we tried one pair of connections - neither WAN cox or LAX cox indicator lit. We tried the second option - LAN cox indicator lit up, and internet was back on! To prevent this from happening again, we marked the  each pair of hookups with tapes.

In reflection, I identified some problems with myself in this process: 1) I disconnected the cable based on erroneous assumption and I did not mark the connections I disconnected.  2) once challenged by the problem, I hoped for easy fix and did not think thoroughly at first; 3) once easy fix did not work, I wanted other who could fix it easily to work on it; 4) Only when challenged by economics (too expensive for the fix), non availability of internet for three days, I went back to think more carefully on what I should do to fix the problem.

Lessons learned? 1) think before act every time; 2) some pressure is good to make things happen

Even though this is a very simple (out of expertise area) problem, the problem solving skill required is the same as that for a more complex problem:

1) Try to understand a problem first without assumptions and know the end goal
2) Learn as much as possible about the situation
3) Observe, analyze and try
4) Divide a complex problem into a few simple ones
5) Solve the simple problems and the complex problem is not that hard to solve