September 2012 Archives

September 25, 2012

The Move to San Diego

Today, I turned in the UHaul truck, ending the move in process for my family. We are now, officially, moved into San Diego. You would think it would be simple, wouldn't you? But it turned out to be long, drawn out, and anxiety-ridden.First, there was the drive down. The drive from Salt Lake City, Utah to San Diego, California, is supposed to take 10 hours and 38 minutes (according to Bing maps). In the past, we have made the trip in anywhere from 11 to 14 hours with the kids and our one car. This time we would be traveling down with the UHaul 14-foot truck stuffed to the gills (thanks to the expert packing skills of my brother in law), our car and my father in law's truck. Traveling down would be my wife, kids, sister in law, and cat in our car. My brother in law and I traveled in the UHaul, and my in laws drove their truck.Let me preface this trip by noting how the UHaul truck is not built for speed or fuel efficiency. That being said, we spent 13 hours on the road (much better time than I thought) with a couple of stops for lunch and breaks. For a while I drove with my eldest son in the truck with me (there was a child seat in between the two seats), but mostly it was just my brother in law and me. We had some great talks, discussing quite a lot, but mostly talking about what would be required for him and his family to move down to San Diego as well (closer to the Chargers, his favorite team).Some events that were noteworthy in the trip:

  • Hills coming out of the Desert were a beast. We could only max out at 45 mph, and our miles per gallon suffered tremendously.
  • Jonathan discovered the easiest way to get his uncle nervous is to unbuckle his seat belt and turn on, then off, the map light.
  • The agricultural stop along I-15 was a bear. I apparently got the lane with the only officer determined to do the job right. I had to stop and open up the back to satisfy the requirement of not hauling fruits or vegetables (or other live plants) in the back. I understand why he did it, and I understand how important it is, I only feel sorry for those stuck behind me as I opened up and then closed the back.

Once we got to the town home, we started to unload as we waited for my wife to show up with the key (she took mine in anticipation of getting to the town home first). Once we got in, I then realized just how much my wife packed. Keep in mind that we had already thrown or given away almost half of the stuff we had in the house. We took very little, or so I thought. Once we started to unload, I realized there was still a lot of stuff. Luckily our town home we rented has a lot of storage in it's little space. But what I thought would take a total of 2 hours started looking like four, and I was tiring quickly.My mother in law called my wife's uncle, and asked him to come down and help us unload. I didn't ask anyone for help in the new city because I didn't know when I was coming in and didn't want to have them wait around for nothing while we were still on the road. But my wife's uncle, who had already moved someone that day, came with his wife and they helped us move a lot. I'm very thankful for their help, because it gave us plenty of breathing room for the rest of the weekend.So Saturday ended with everyone in the house, about 3/4 of our stuff from the truck in the house, and all of us very, very tired. On Sunday we started to sort through what was in the house. During this time our youngest found the sliding glass door on the top floor, and followed it out onto the fire escape, went down the stairs, and started to explore the street. He was picked up by the police who couldn't get his name (of course, he has autism), and once they found a very frantic father searching we were reunited. I now have the sliding glass door blocked so little adventures like that shouldn't happen again (knock on wood).The rest of the day Sunday was dedicated to organizing the house. We were getting help Monday to move the rest of our stuff in, so we needed to make spaces for it. We hung up the TV to keep the kids happy and my wife went crazy putting stuff away from boxes, while I took them to the recycling bin or dumpster. We picked up some critical food items for the day and next morning, a few critical items for the house, and made a significant hole in the boxes.Monday we started by getting my son off to school. It was a good experience, at least as well as could be expected as they didn't get his Individual Education Plan (IEP) before we got there. They now have it, and he really enjoyed school. So much, in fact, that he kept putting his backpack on to go back to school after he got home. That's a great sign, and I'm excited to work with the school. It's a small school, very close (takes 15 minutes to reach while walking), and both our kids will be going to this school.Once we got him off to school and felt comfortable that he was set, we did some critical purchases of a new mattress for the boys' bunk bed, some new tools that I have needed, and our food shopping. We then got back to work clearing out space for our additional stuff.That evening we had some help come from our church, one couple and the Elder's quorum president. It was a great experience meeting and working with members in the ward, knowing they were willing to take time out of their schedule to come and help us move. With their help, what looked like a three hour job was done within an hour and a half. As a thank-you, they got some well aged hot carrots and some water.This morning I needed to get to work, but fortunately for us the UHaul drop-off location was just down the street from my office. So this morning I took an early lunch and dropped it off with 6 hours to spare. That finished the move for me, ending the anxiety of someone taking off with the truck as it was parked overnight at a location that was 15 minutes away from our home (in front of our church house). But it all ended with no mishaps or damage to the truck.It will be at least the rest of the week before we are completely done moving in. We still need to put up some cabinets for our dishes, put clothes away, and get a china cabinet to display the collectibles and nick-knacks that make a house a home. Perhaps this weekend we will be able to do the things that I have enjoyed so far with San Diego, like visit the beach with the boys, or go to Sea World (we already have passes). At any rate, it's been an eventful trip, but I'm glad it's over.

September 19, 2012

Promising Research in Autism: But Far From Cure

Article first published as Promising Research in Autism: But Far From Cure on Technorati.Boy with autism plays with his life-sized Mickey Mouse.The journal Science has an article entitled Shared Synaptic Pathophysiology in Syndromic and Nonsyndromic Rodent Models of Autism, which found a common bond between Fragile X and autism. And what's more, they were able to "reverse" the autism-like symptoms, in mice. The article that drew my attention to this research was Neuronal Dysfunction Found In Autism can be Reversed, posted online at the Examiner. Imagine my surprise, and excitement, when I read that an effective cure for autism had been found! Of course, I checked my excitement and started to read the article. It seems that scientists have managed to duplicate the genetic effect that causes autism-like behaviors in mice with Fragile X Syndrome in mice with "autism". Basically, they introduced an antibiotic (an environmental stimulus), which caused the neuroligin-3 gene to turn off. This gene is instrumental in developing glutamate receptors and neural pathways. Without this gene, the brain just connects willy-nilly, and as a result causes autism-like symptoms. The research is ground-breaking, because they found a way to turn the gene off, and subsequently back on. That means, should this gene be defective in persons with autism, it's possible in the future to treat their autism with drugs. It could be possible, perhaps in the not too distant future, to have children with autism retain their minds but be able to engage socially. So why curb my excitement, if this is such a great breakthrough? There are a few things that are assumed by the news article (though not by the scientists):

  • Autism is caused by the neuroligin-3 gene: This is quite an assumption, since there are now over 200 genes found to be linked in some way to some form of autism. Still, as it is confirmed in those with Fragile X Syndrome, this is excellent news.
  • Non-environmental disruption of neuroligin-3 can be reversed: This will most likely be the next phase of the research. Biologists and neurologists will need to check to see if, when this gene is already turned off naturally, it can be turned back on using environmental drugs.
  • There is a biological consistency between humans and mice: As with most biological experimentation, this research was done on mice. The question now is, can it be reproduced in more complex mammals, such as humans? There is a lot of difference between a mouse and a little boy.

Of course, I'm not discouraged at all. I think any research that produces results such as these are fabulous. Clinical vetting still needs to be done, lots of research to test the theory, and of course there needs to be some test subjects and clinical trials, but all in all I think this is great news. Perhaps one day we will be able to have a way to treat autism's worst symptoms while unlocking the brilliant minds that are just waiting for us.

September 18, 2012

Stem Cells in Action: Simple Organs Developed for Humans

Not too long ago, when Stem Cell research became the new medical miracle buzz-word and received the support of a prominent Senator, I saw an opportunity that had hitherto been unavailable: growing transplant organs. The news was all the rage with the idea, but it hit very close to home: you see my wife donated her kidney to her younger brother. She was a very close match and made the transplant go really smoothly for him. But even so, the urologist still said he would most likely only have the kidney for 20 years before it was rejected. After reading about stem cells, I couldn't help but get excited. But as the years went by, the only news I read covered the controversy over embryonic stem cells and not the advancements that were being made in stem cell research. I feared that the future of human organ replacements using stem cells to grow organs would remain a very distant dream. Then I read this article about tailor-made organs in the New York Times, and I was thrilled! Here was a research specialist that was developing new simple organs (in this case a windpipe) using stem cells from bone marrow. The results have been promising, and future research is moving toward more complex organ growth. For anyone who has a family member that has received, or needs, a transplant, this news is nothing more than amazing. It could be possible in the near future that everyone who needs a transplant could have one within a few months, and will not need to take any rejection-inhibiting medication. No longer will recipients be denied a kidney, heart, or liver. Instead, they will have one "grown" from their own cells. And that will be a modern medical miracle that will help me rest easy at night.

September 11, 2012

Never Forget 9/11

September 11th will always remain burned into my memory. I remember the sunrise shining against the dry field to my left as I drove up the street from my home to the freeway. I remember the little Geo Metro shifting into gear as I turned on the radio for my morning news. From that moment, everything changed from a routine drive to my Ancient Greek class at the University of Utah to one of quiet, focus, and horror. I suppose once in a generation there is an event that reminds us about the inhumanity of which humans are capable. This will always be my reminder. But it was also a brief, shining moment in American politics, a shift from the gloating of the Republicans and the venom of the Democrats over the recent win of the presidency of George W. Bush. Almost at once, Congress put aside their petty differences and we as Americans united in support for each other. Things have, of course, changed, with perhaps even more venom being spewed forth by both parties while blaming each other for the "rise in negativity". We as a nation have fallen into attack after attack, personal and professional, on each other and their related party. Things have grown ugly this year, but again, on September 11th, both campaigns have suspended their rhetoric and vitriol in remembrance of this day when we as Americans were able to, for once at least, remember who we are and who we could be when united.I hope we all can learn something from this day of remembrance and service. Let's hope we find a reason to remember that those who have different political views are people not pundits, neighbors not villains, and friends not foes. Because that is what September 11th has taught me: we are all Americans, but only when we choose to be.

September 10, 2012

Could Valve's Steam TV be the Apple TV's Console Solution?

Kotaku has an article about Valve bringing Steam to the TV that is due to be released in Beta today. The argument is that Consoles are great, but they are walled gardens and Valve wants to create an environment that can be used on any box, at any time. The timing is interesting, and the more that I read about Valve's Steam TV, the more I realized this could be Apple's way into console gaming without having to court high end developers to try and develop for the Apple TV platform. Not that I think there would be a big fight to get into the Apple TV market, even though it is very small. But Steam already has a huge inventory of games that would work given the right interface. I've long believed that Apple would find some way to get gaming to the TV through the Apple TV. The most commonly believed avenue would be bringing your iOS apps to the TV, with the controller being the iPad or iPhone. It seems reasonable, and very likely. It wouldn't be at the same level as most of your console games, but then it wouldn't need to be since the expectation would be that of your iPhone gamer. But console gamers would want more. So now, enter in Valve's Steam TV. Here you have very common PC games that already run on the Mac (thanks to the Mac release of Steam). Making an iOS compatible version of Steam shouldn't be that different from the Mac (depending on the software development platform they used), and it could be released to a broader audience than just the Apple TV in the very near future (iPad Steam, perhaps?). Another argument for the release of Steam TV Beta on the Apple TV would be the current saturation of the Apple TV: a few million boxes are out there, but it's not as widespread as many other devices. Add a restriction to perhaps the latest Apple TV with the A5 processor and 1080P resolution, and you have even less. It's a perfect testbed for Steam TV. Of course this is all supposition, as I don't have any contacts with Apple (who wouldn't say anything anyway, even if I did), and I don't have any contacts with Valve. But the idea is so interesting, so exciting, and so possible, I think it could happen. Perhaps this could be the "one more thing" for the announcement on Wednesday. What do you think?

September 9, 2012

"Junk" DNA: Could This Be the Unified Theory for Autism?

Article first published as "Junk" DNA: Could This Be the Unified Theory for Autism? on Technorati.Boy with autism playing in shredded paper.The New York Times has a great article on research done on "Junk" DNA, or DNA sequences that are not genes. The article talks about the part of DNA that are not instructions for building proteins was was previously considered unnecessary appears to be active (at least 80% of it), and needed. This part of the genetic code acts as switches that determine how genes are interpreted, which are used, and ultimately can determine which cell becomes, say, "a liver cell or a neuron".What's really interesting about these switches is how they are activated. It seems that environmental factors can change which switch is active, which is used, and how the body can be (or not be) prepared for illness. There have been at least 6 articles published in the journal Nature about these switches, and they have already have found links between them and diseases like multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and celiac disease (see links in the NYT article), and can even dictate a person's height.After reading this article, I couldn't help but wonder: how do these switches relate to autism? The debate into causes of autism have been raging (and I'm one of the ragers, I know), and has divided a lot of research funding amongst many different theories. Right or wrong, it has been frustrating for parents, advocates, and politicians as everyone starts taking sides.But when I hear that environmental changes can affect how switches are turned on and off, and I think about how much genetic evidence seems to be there for autism (in that certain genes need to be dominant, certain mutations need to happen, etc.), and tie that all into the various diseases already associated with these switches, I can't help but wonder if there is a direct correlation between many of the claims of autism causes and our "junk" DNA.Now, please note, this is purely my speculation, but what if these switches are responsible for autism, or at least responsible for when those mutated genes that are associated with autism are activated? It would explain any environmental relationship with autism, it would also explain any autoimmune conditions that cause autism, and a lot of the other conditions that seem to be related to autism. And once we know the cause, we know where to look for treatment.Now, again, this is purely speculation on my part, and there is no research to back this up. Please take it with a grain of salt until someone does research in this area. But it's exciting to me to think we are at the cusp of something so significant that could mean so much to us. Perhaps it is the answer, perhaps not. Still, I can't help but hope for the breakthrough that brings us all together under the same umbrella. Because once that happens, our internal squabbles can be put behind us and we can spend more resources on what's important: our children.

September 8, 2012

What I'm Looking For at the iPhone Announcement

Unless you don't follow the Apple brand very closely, or don't own a smartphone, you are probably aware that Apple is having their iPhone announcement event on Wednesday, the 12th. As with a lot of other pundits for Apple (and against), there is a lot of supposition going into this announcement. Let me outline what I would consider newsworthy:

  • LTE: This should go without saying, as it's expected and has been for a long time. Apple will finally release an LTE phone. They have an LTE iPad, so the stretch shouldn't be that big a deal. I think it's safe to say that Apple will have LTE in their next gen iPhone. If they don't, then it will be a huge disappointment.
  • Better VIdeo Recording Tech: The 4S had some incredible recording tech with their steady hand recording. I'm looking for much better recording in the new iPhone, and possibly a better camera.
  • iPod Touch Refresh: The iPhone dominates the news, but I'm looking for a refresh on the iPod Touch. It's been a huge hit for a long time, but there hasn't been a lot of changes in the past couple of years. Perhaps this year the iPod Touch will get it's big remake... as the iPad Mini?
  • Apple TV Grows Up: Wired had an article recently about the 8 apps that the Apple TV needs to win the set top box war. And I agree whole-heartedly on these. Sure, you have Netflix and now Hulu Plus, but given Amazon Instant Video, specific apps for all the big (and small) networks, and add iTunes U (and similar) to the mix, you have one killer device that doesn't have to be connected to your cable provider. I've mentioned before how I think the cable companies could get into the mix. But if they don't, what better way to get around them than work with the independent networks? I like the idea, at least.
  • Apple TV Gaming: This is another thing that I've wanted to see for a long time. While I don't expect the Apple TV to take the place of your big workhorse consoles, I think light gaming as seen in the iOS store would be very doable on the Apple TV. It could be very social, using the Apple TV as a central screen for individuals on their iOS devices going head to head. That would be sweet!

So that, at least, is my list of things I would like to see. What am I not expecting to see?

  • RFC Payments: Google has been championing RFC technology for a while now with Google Wallet, and trying to get more and more vendors to by into it. Personally, I don't trust it because it's so easy to capture and duplicate RFC signatures, making it less secure. I'm sure Google has ways around protecting your money, but it's still a concern. Apple has already got some great deals going with Square and other payment methods without using RFC, so I don't see them going to it in the near future. Still, I could be wrong, as this is all just supposition. ^_^
  • Reasonable Data Rates: Not really a problem that Apple can solve, as this is completely up to the carrier, but I don't see reasonable data rates coming from the new iPhone, and I don't know how it would get fixed.. unless there was only one national carrier that had all the LTE spectrum currently available.. but we all know what happens when you have a monopoly.
  • No Snide Comments from Haters: Maybe it's the presidential election, the years of whining from pundits on both sides of the Smartphone environment, or perhaps just hanging around people who are so sure of their opinions without any proof given, but I'm sick to death of haters attacking other haters. Heaven forbid I prefer an iPhone to a Galaxy, and vice versa! *sigh*
  • <\ul>So that's my list of what I don't think will happen. Perhaps I'm wrong, perhaps not. We will see. But what about my list of unlikely features that I would really want?

    • Waterproofing: Not that this has happened in my family, but some people do accidentally expose their iPhones (and other electronics) to water. There are lots of solutions to this problem, but apparently there is one that is a treatment to the internal surfaces of the components that can make the phone "waterproof". To what degree remains to be seen, but it would be nice to be able to take my iPhone to Sea World without worrying about where to sit, stand, or kneel. I'm sure it would make the iPhone the most valuable phone/camera at that point, and would be a feature very few other phones have.
    • Built-in Projector: Forget having to cart around either an Apple TV or special adapters and cables.. why not just project straight from your iPhone or iPad? If this even was available it would most likely end up on the iPad, and would probably be so impractical to the majority of purchasers that it wouldn't make sense.. still, it would be awesome to just pull out your phone and run a full HD-quality presentation without anything else.
    • Hand-held Scanner: Also not very practical, particularly since you can just take a photo of the object, but a high quality scan would be awesome. Not sure how it would be applied though...
    • Laser Keyboard: It would be so awesome if, some how, a laser keyboard could be built into the iPhone, negating the need for an on-screen keyboard or a Bluetooth keyboard. Practical? I think so. Difficult? Definitely. Cost effective? It would mean fewer keyboard sales..
    • Teleportation: Perhaps I've watched Phineas and Ferb with the boys, but a teleportation app that could automatically take you anywhere in the world? Awesome! Vacations would be a breeze, and I'm certain we would be off foreign oil very quickly. Of course, there's the whole quantum physics, computer processing necessary to make such a thing possible, and the facilities necessary to make it happen just don't exist. But if it did, awesome!

    Anyway, that's my list. What are you looking forward to come September 12th? What don't you see coming? What would you like to see?

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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