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Archive for April, 2008

On doctors, heroin addicts, Cha Cha Cha and San Francisco

April 28, 2008 1 comment

Similar to many technology geeks, I’ve got a fake outrageous moral disdain for physicians. I hate the fact that they get to wear a white coat while I’m stuck with normal clothing. Well, I guess I don’t really “hate” doctors – I just hate them like Seinfeld hates them (who rightfully questions why doctors need offices, why they need to get everyone to drop their pants, why they make you wait in the big waiting room, then the little waiting room, why they make you sit on butcher paper, etc.).

So I make it a point to let my physician friends know about all this every time I see them. This morning, on a beautiful SF afternoon, I was hanging out with my friend PD who is a resident at UCSF. We were perched on a couple of bar stools at Cha Cha Cha on Haight when I launched into one of my usual tirades.

If you haven’t been to Cha Cha Cha – I highly recommend it. Great Cajun food and tapas plates, but certainly not the kinda place where you see a doctor and a geek arguing about the state of medicine on Sunday afternoons.

So we’re in the middle of this when the waitress, who is a tattoo-covered artist type starts smiling at us. Of course. I’m with a doctor. I’m elevated just by being within his “aura”. Life is so unfair – but I digress.

She says, “Are you a doctor?” and part of me wanted to finish my friend’s sentence and say, “YES I AM”, before I realized that that might be a crime and that I’d be held accountable if she choked on the spot. So I shut the hell up while my friend nodded his assent.

That was all that was needed. Let’s just say that our waitress was, uh, clinically curious. First she had a question about why asthma medicine caused her to itch on her face. Fair enough, PD shoots out a competent-sounding answer. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Well, she’s just hooked. She lets the questions fire left and right! Duck and cover, baby, she REALLY wants to learn. There was one bomb about why “meth heads don’t have any teeth”, to which PD claimed ignorance. There was a question about whether “fibromyalgia is bullshit”. There was a line uttered at some point about how “heroin addicts must never use the toilet”, which shook me to my very core and cause the seafood paella to regurgitate.

Then we get to the moneymaker. She asks my friend, who is in anesthesia, “Should I be under anesthesia if I get a boob job for my 30th?”

I looked at PD. Get it right, buddy, dont screw this one up. PD waited for a second, then answered the question as any doctor would. No snickering, no banging the table, no weird looks – just a straight answer about the chest wall, breast tissue, saline versus silicone, etc. It was probably the most formative moment of my life. I felt like a…grown up. Don’t laugh.

The paella was great, and she even hooked us up with some free dessert for PD’s expertise.

I guess the moral of the story is that I don’t hate doctors anymore. And that Cha Cha Cha has great food and friendly waitstaff. Try it out yourself sometime.

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Categories: life Tags:

Just how good is Mahalo’s SEO?

April 24, 2008 2 comments

The smart money says that Mahalo’s solid traffic gains – from nothing to AT LEAST 2 million uniques – is the result of very good SEO techniques. As I’ve discussed before, they fill a good niche which Wikipedia doesn’t necessarily cover (link-heavy “around the web” content for a particular topic, vetted by a human), especially for newsy content. Here is my previous article: https://bitbubble.wordpress.com/2008/03/28/hats-off-to-mahalo/

So just how good is their SEO? I guess the only way to find out would be take a random sample of keywords within a vertical and find out what percentage they rank for in the top 10 results? Any other ideas?

Stay tuned 🙂

Categories: tech Tags: ,

A Dirty Job: Book Review

April 20, 2008 Leave a comment

Picked this bad boy up – where else – at the Palo Alto Borders a few months ago and finally got around to knocking it off the pile.

“A Dirty Job” is a very ghoulish, fairly entertaining, at times laugh-out-loud book by local SF author Christopher Moore. It starts off, disturbingly enough, with an inveterate weak-kneed fella whose wife passes away in the emergency room while giving birth to a baby girl. Charlie Asher – the guy – then goes on to discover that he is a “Death Merchant” and is in charge of retrieving the souls of the dying/recently dead.

In other words, buy this book for your children.

No, but really, what makes the book for me is the fact that it is set in SF and written by a local. Lots of descriptions of SF neighborhoods and town arcana that you wouldn’t know about. There are weak patches in the book and the ending isn’t so hot, but overall it rips along very well.

Categories: life, reviews Tags: ,

Is it me, or is MyWire.com doomed?

April 20, 2008 1 comment

I recently came across MyWire.com, a Redwood Shores based company that “connects” people to trustworthy information and allows them to create “channels” based upon their interests. You can view the property in action right here: http://www.mywire.com

Did I miss something? I’m clearly not the sharpest tool in the shed, but here is what it sounds like these guys do:

  • Buy up a bunch of content sources (Associated Press, etc.) that are newsy/topical.
  • Show snippets for other content sources like The Huffington Post.
  • Allow users to create a profile and comment upon licensed stories.
  • Allow users to create a custom set of stories based upon interests.

Clearly, the first 3 bullet points are, well, lame. Why would I ever use this when my problem is not lack of available/trustworthy sources of information but way too many goddamn sources? Its too much noise, not enough signal.

The fourth one is interesting, yes, but is a problem that several folks are attacking in myriad ways. Take Persai, for example, which asks you to specify your interests and picks out relevant stories for you (more complicated than that in reality, but whatever). There is also MeeSlice (http://www.meeslice.com) and I won’t say anything more about them just yet.

So what in the world is MyWire offering me in terms of innovation? Did I miss something?

Categories: silicon valley, tech Tags: , ,

It’s official: Virgin America rules

April 14, 2008 Leave a comment

Call me skeptical: I really didn’t think that an airline that proudly advertises the fact that its plane cabins are bathed in purple light would amount to much. Add to that the fact that they used to advertise with thick poster card paper in WIRED and piss me off to no end.

But I gotta admit: it was a bad call to remain a Virgin virgin (that’s lame but too easy. Please reserve judgment).

The flight was excellent, the crew is friendly to a fault, the plane is all new (duh!), the entertainment programming is wonderful. Plus I really didn’t mind the purple light at all in the end anyways. Sorta made me feel like I was back in the 70s. Or in the future. I’m not caffeinated enough just yet to decide.

Categories: life Tags: ,

Wag of the finger to Yelp: Reviews aren’t exposed via RSS

April 13, 2008 Leave a comment

[So I copied Steven Colbert in the title; sue me]

Okay, I’ve started to use Yelp pretty regularly to navigate my move up to the city. I’ve always been impressed by the strength of the community in San Francisco and just how many diverse points of view make their way into reviews of almost every spot out there. The Yelp Talk feature is most excellent – both times I’ve left questions, I’ve gotten north of 10 responses. Within an hour! Now that’s an engaged, passionate community.

Here is what’s bullshit: my reviews (or anyone else’s, for that matter) aren’t available via RSS. Why? Why can’t I, if I choose to, follow a friend’s reviews on Google Reader? Why can’t I send a feed of my own reviews to friends or link that feed to my main line blog feed?

In one word: pageviews? And that’s why Nick Carr says that “It’s worth remembering that the business model of Web 2.0 social networks is the sharecropping model“. For a site whose very existence relies upon users contributing content, shouldn’t it try to let that content free in some limited form?

Did I miss something here?

Categories: 1 Tags: , , ,

Fun factoid you didn’t know: ATM out of network charges

April 13, 2008 Leave a comment

Read this in Fortune magazine this evening while busting my hump at the gym: every year, banks make 4 billion dollars in revenue from the annoying-as-hell $1.50 ATM charge thats applied and grudgingly accepted while we find ourselves out of network.

Categories: 1