Archive for July, 2006

Medical treatment in Thailand

Posted: July 30, 2006 in Health, Thailand

I went for a checkup the other day and was reminded again of how great medical care can be. Private hospitals in Thailand provide great medical care and something else that those of us from the west don’t usually expect – great service. And all at a great price – complete checkup, including all blood work, urinalysis, chest xray, ultrasound scan of digestive tract, and consultation with a real doctor runs about 3,500 baht (less than $100 U.S.). For sure that is a small fortune for up-country Thais, but a fraction of what it would cost back in the states. And the warm hospitality of the smiling nurses and doctors is in such contrast to the disinterested and abrupt treatment western medical centers dish out.

Actually, Thailand is a popular destination for “medical tourism”. People from all over the world come here for treatment of all types and turn it into a sort of medical vacation. With some hospitals resembling 4 star hotels that provide world class medical care it is a great option, especially for elective procedures or things that are not covered by insurance in a person’s home country. A couple of years ago my wife had surgery at Bamrungrad Hospital, one of the more well known private hospitals in Bangkok. She spent 4 nights in a private room with an extra bed for me. The treatment was great, even for me! And total cost was less than $2,000 U.S., a fraction of what it would have cost in the west and with incomparable treatment. We felt so fortunate to be in Thailand when the need for the surgery arose.

They have world class facilities for everything, dental, cardiology, cancer, cosmetic surgery, child birth. I highly recommend it as an alternative to stateside medical care.

When did technology people start thinking they are cool?

Technology is cool, way cool. Everybody who uses it knows it. And everybody who works with it knows it even more so. I worked in tech for many years – electronics, VLSI design, signal processing systems – technologies that are so cool. But I never suffered from the delusion that working with cool technology made me a cool person. My level of coolness derived from other sources. Looking around me back then I knew there was a reason I didn’t quite fit all the way in. But I was still a geek by association, at least until I finally got out of that environment.

Now I’m seeing the geeks of the world beginning to act as if they think they are actually cool. The delusion seems particular strong where the greatest concentration of geeks gather, Silicon Valley. It is quite evident at places such as Valley Wag which bills itself as “Silicon Valley’s Tech Gossip Rag”. Ok, news about tech and tech people is important to those doing business there. Even personal news and scuttlebutt might be important to making deals. But you folks in the Valley, don’t start getting the idea you are cool.

No matter how cool your technology or how successfully you market it you are still not cool. I think Bill Gates, the richest man in the world thanks to some very cool technology, has definitively proven this. Bill Gates is a great man and a great humanitarian. But “cool” isn’t a label you would hang on him. Those billions of dollars still don’t have the same cachet of coolness that, for example, a newbie Hollywood starlet has who may be dumb as a doorknob and flat broke.

So, reality check for you geeks in the Valley, and elsewhere for that matter. Tech – cool; Tech People – not cool.

I remember some of my home improvement projects back in the U.S. Plumbing was always an issue in older homes, what with old galvanized plumbing in many homes, sometimes copper repipe, sometimes an ugly combination of the two. Plumbing jobs were usually messy and sometimes small repairs turned into big jobs as corroded pipe kept breaking off farther and farther into the wall. And copper pipe is expensive and difficult to work with. Plumbers pull down big money.

The entire country of Thailand is plumbed with PVC pipe. It’s strong, reliable, fast, cheap, doesn’t corrode and is easy to install; exceedingly easy to install. Cut it with any type of saw that is handy, slather some PVC glue on it, slap the joints together, and in 10 minutes it is ready. It’s so easy that there are virtually never issues with bad joints, unlike copper with troublesome solder joints. It comes in several thicknesses; the standard one is rated at 13 bars (13 atmospheres of pressure). So it is plenty strong enough for all but extreme high pressure uses.

Why can’t PVC plumbing be used in the U.S.? (rhetorical question) It’s a scam of course. It is so easy and reliable that plumbers are not needed. The labor unions would have none of that. By working the U.S. system of what I call “legalized graft” consumers are forced to pay exorbitant rates for plumbing materials and labor. One of the plethora of legal scams in <b>overdeveloped</b> countries like the U.S. Overdeveloped – as in over legislated, over unionized, and over priced.

MySpace and spyware/adware

Posted: July 24, 2006 in Web Wise

Last week I saw a couple of news stories pop up at Netscape about spyware/adware being distributed through ads on MySpace. There was the story of a banner ad that used Osama bin Laden’s face on the body of a model in a bikini to advertise a spyware infested toolbar from a company called Starware. Then there was the report that another banner ad was exploiting a Windows security flaw to infect more than one million machines. The discussion went back and forth with one side saying that MySpace is responsible and should check its advertisers and another side saying that it is impractical to do so. That debate assumes MySpace wasn’t complicit in the whole business of distributing spyware. But then later in the comments there were links posted to reports by Jason Miller at WebProNews and Trent Lapinski that include details on the sordid past of the MySpace founders. It seems they previously ran companies that were big into spam and spyware/adware distribution.

MySpace may not be particularly important or interesting to many people, but if even a modest fraction of the more than 80 million (and growing) members are legit, this is a vast enterprise. And if they are engaged in distributing spyware/adware/malware the impact could be large and widespread. It is easy to make the assumption that when an enterprise gets very large they are, or at least attempt to be, legit. That feeling is based on the idea that now that they are so big they have much to lose. But it is a bad assumption as we have seen with the vast corporate corruption and greed demonstrated in recent years (Enron, WorldCom). Alan Greenspan, the former head of the Federal Reserve Board, once said while testifying before congress, “It isn’t that people are greedier now than in the past. It’s just that there are so many more ways to express their greed now days”. Vast distribution networks of spyware/adware are yet another way for some to express their greed.

Domain name snarfing

Posted: July 23, 2006 in Web Wise

Ever get a great idea for a domain name and do a quick check to see if it is available? Careful, there are a few domain registrars who are snarfing those domain names. Brad Waller wrote an article titled Domain Hijacking Hijinks in which he talks about a study that pretty convincingly shows that if you check domain name availability at the CNet domain search page, for example, chances are it will quickly get registered by someone else if you don’t immediately register it yourself. That someone else is an outfit called Chesterton Holdings. Waller does some Googling of whois data, office addresses, and phone numbers and finds quite a tangled web of “holding” companies that are connected to this domain name snarfing business.

And for what purpose? Profit of course. It works like this. Domain name queries are monitored for potentially interesting names, or names of potentially great interest (numerous queries). Then Chesterton or someone like them registers the name. The domain name then finds its way to Domain Cargo where the domain name is offered for sale. While waiting for a buyer ads are run on the snarfed domain.

With the rapidly diminishing pool of good domain names the best action to take to prevent getting snarfed is register that domain name immediately.

Initial post

Posted: July 21, 2006 in Web Wise

Some previous posts in my more narrowly focused blogs may be re-posted here in the future. This blog will be wider ranging in scope; I’ll post on a range of topics I find interesting.