Archive for April, 2012

Occupy the Future!

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

This we give the World

This we give the World: Hypercubes

My friends, every new listener, every person who receives and shares this message is a blessing to Humanity. YOU give me hope for our species.

The Future is coming. We can all perish in it, or THRIVE in it. So much change is coming that it is literally world-changing. Not everyone will welcome this change. Technologies that the wealthy have invested in will become obsolete almost overnight, and the ones that realize this do not like it. But money, bigotry, old hatreds and fears will not hold back the Future. It WILL come. We are bringing it. YOU are bringing it.

Power to the People!

Power to the People!

Hands are reaching out across the scars of the past to make peace with old enemies. Scientists are daring to go beyond the limitations of accepted theories to create new wonders of technology. Citizens across the globe are rising up to cast out corrupt leaders and replace them with ones who listen to their people. I am not saying that all governments must fall. I am saying they must learn to listen and to serve ALL of their people, or they will be replaced.

Yes, I come from a country that is still paranoid. The attacks of a few have angered and scared and outraged the many. But not all Americans are blind enough to believe we should rule the world, or that those who dislike our policies are somehow crazy or evil. While I salute humans brave enough to risk their lives serving my country, I wish my country were using its resources to build, not to destroy. If we want dissent in other countries to bring more freedom, we should be doing a better job of allowing and listening to dissent here in America.

We are not going to build a better world for the Future with bricks of hate. We cannot glue the future together with the blood of enemies. We cannot reach the stars by climbing a mountain of skulls.

Occupy Hyperspace!

Occupy Hyperspace!

Old rivalries and angers are being kept alive because leaders fear that there are not enough resources for everyone. We are behaving like children fighting over a glass of water while it is raining outside. Our resources are NOT limited! Just a little ways out in space, the Asteroid Belt has all the metals and materials we will need for the next thousand years! There are planetoids and moons literally made of solid ice that we can mine for drinking water and hydrogen fuel. And the Sun will give us free solar energy for billions of years. All we have to do is reach out and collect it.

For years oil companies told us that solar energy was “a pipe dream.” But the latest quantum dot solar cells have incredibly high efficiency. Solar isn’t just for powering your calculator any more. A few miles from where I sit typing, homes are built, and are still being built, that are OFF THE GRID. They get all the electricity they need from solar panels. And this is being done with older solar cells! The newer designs will allow energy independence with fewer panels far from the Equator once they are mass-produced.

Medicine is exploding into greater understanding of human needs and the causes of aging. For example we now know that a lot of aging is exacerbated by the loss of functional mitochondria, the power generators of our cells. As we get older, our mitochondria tend to break down and their loss accelerates cellular degeneration. But now we can do something about that! Recent discoveries about a nutrient called PQQ show that it can actually help build new mitochondria. And we are learning more about essential molecules like CoQ10 that protect and energize out bodies. In the Future, we will all live longer — and we will not just survive longer, we will liver BETTER longer.

Join Together now!

Join Together now!

The Future is bright, my friends. I do not know if I will live to see a world at peace. I do not know if I will be around when we build new homes and factories in space. But I believe that it will happen. YOU will make it happen. And if I can be a small part of the effort to help you get there, then my life has not been wasted.

This We Give the World.
—MRK

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Keeping Score at Walter Reed

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Given to me by Brigadier General Dunn

Given to me by Brigadier General Dunn

This is a citation/medallion presented to me by Brigadier General Dunn. He handed them out to Dr. Hamm’s programming team at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he used to command before he was transferred out to the Western Regional Medical Command.

After our oasis of development dried up at Versient and it became Shamrock Acquisitions. I discovered that my friend and former co-worker Adil Asik had found a new job programming at Walter Reed. He introduced me to his boss, Dr. Carolyn Hamm, and in short order I found myself working on her team. It was only a couple of years after 9/11/01 and most of the gates to the hospital had been blocked with concrete barricades; every day I passed through a checkpoint and had my briefcase or laptop bag searched by armed soldiers.

The challenge of medical data is not gathering it. The challenge is making sense of it. Each disease process has its own dangers, its own warning signs. To help physicians follow clinical practice guidelines, Dr. Hamm’s team was creating active server Web pages that interrogated the medical database and displayed patient data in a quickly-assimilated format. If a diabetes patient is being seen, for example, the information the doctor needs to gather and review is different than it is for a COPD patient or for someone diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF).

The basic idea was the same for all 8 disease processes we were working on. Once a doctor has logged in and selected a patient, get that patient’s relevant records from the database and display it, prompting the physician to take more readings to update the data when appropriate.

So far, so good. But since the questions the doctor needs to ask each patient (and the tests to perform) are different with each disease process, Dr. Hamm’s team was working on 8 different medical “scorecard” web pages, one for each kind of disease. For purposes of rapid development, the “questions” on each kind of scorecard page were “hard-coded” (never changed) text like “Blood Pressure: ” but the “answers” were filled in from the data base.

I looked at this and realized that the disparate efforts could be combined. Just as we physicists like to say that all known forces are just aspects or versions of a single unified “superforce”, I felt that the different medical scorecards could be seen as merely differing versions of a single unified generalized medical scorecard. The solution was to put the questions in the database, too, as well as the answers — and to identify for each Question record just what kind of disease process it is associated with.

Let’s say I want a Diabetes scorecard for John Doe. As a physician, I log in and select John Doe from my patients. Naturally, the system knows that he has both Diabetes Mellitus and CHF scorecard data recorded. I select the Diabetes scorecard. When I click that link on the browser, it sends a request to the server; the server-side script runs and pulls (a) the text of QUESTIONS to display for any Diabetes scorecard, and (b) the records in the database that answer those questions for John Doe.

Once it has both the questions for Diabetes and the answers in the case of John Doe, the server can send out a completed web page summarizing the condition of John as last recorded, along with reminders for periodic updating. Glancing at the screen, I can see that his last blood sugar (HbA1c) reading and a note that a follow-up foot exam should be performed. If I had been looking at his CHF scorecard page, it would, instead, have displayed his most recent cholesterol and blood pressure readings, and so on.

The idea is simple, but powerful: pull it together and summarize only what the doctor needs to know about this disease for this patent. Don’t make me scroll down a list of all the test results and hope I find the correct patient’s numbers. Don’t make me flip from page to page to find the results of several different tests for the same patient in a chart or clipboard. Jut go get it all and put only what I need together, all on one page — and do it NOW.

I’m sure this is old news to many medical programmers, and you can see the obvious display opportunities, such as a tabbed page with a tab for each disease process the patient is involved with.

After we created the initial setup and transmitted copies of our source code to other military hospitals such as Madigan on the West coast, our next task was to find ways to mine the medical data to detect and display trends in the patient populations. The result of this was a paper presented at the IEEE conference on medical computing: “An Operational Data Store for Reporting Clinical Practice Guideline Adherence in Chronic Disease Patients,” IEEE Proceedings, Computer-Based Medical Systems 2004.

While I still wasn’t making much progress telling the world about Hypercube Speakers, my time was not wasted programming at Walter Reed. While I was on Dr. Hamm’s team we wrote some cool and useful code. But it would not last forever. The Army has a budget, and the Surgeon General of the Army has to make tough decisions sometimes. As a result of budget cuts, I said goodbye to Walter Reed and moved on in search of my next job.

–MRK

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The Rise and Fall of Worldnetpress

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

This is about you. I have no children. You are my heirs. This we give the World.

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Our story thus far:

Me at Annapolis

Me at Annapolis

In 1974 I went to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis to become an officer and a gentlemen; I left to become a physicist and a civilian. But my undergraduate studies had to be put on hold when we discovered the tesseract resonating chamber and applied for a patent. We got the patent on 11/4/1980, but it appeared it was too far ahead of its time for speaker companies to believe it; their engineers seemed to think that a U.S. Utility Patent was some kind of hoax.
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Prototype

Prototype

After attempting to manufacture the technology ourselves, we decided to go for a review in Stereo Review magazine and made special prototypes and drove them to NY ourselves to make sure they got there undamaged.
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Damaged speaker

Damaged Prototype

But we did not get our review. Stereo Review and Hirsch-Houk Labs were not interested. And when we got the speakers back they were damaged. We had dug ourselves in a hole financially to produce them and set up our little warehouse-factory, but without an audience there was no show happening. We moved out of the warehouse and I resumed my undergraduate studies in Physics and got my B.S. on 12/19/1981.

Many resumes later, I gave up on getting a job as a B.S. physicist and was accepted into a doctoral Physics program at FSU in Tallahassee. You’d think it would have been heaven for a physics nut like me, getting to share an office in the Keen building and meeting P.A.M. Dirac at a department tea. But there was a problem: the Hypercube patent had changed the focus of my life. I still loved Physics, but I was more of a Geometry nut now. Tom Weiss and I had found something important. It’s a shame I didn’t get my PhD first; maybe more ‘experts’ would have listened to a “Dr. Kennedy.” But when we were granted the first patent for applied hypergeometry, I wasn’t even a college graduate. Maybe we were unworthy to deliver this message: hyperspace is real. But the message had to be delivered, and nobody else was doing it.

Hypercube speaker array

Hypercube speaker array

After a year of graduate school I left FSU and reentered the “real” world, traveling north with a new friend of mine, Shirley Malone. More about her later. When she inherited a little money Shirley bought a CAD/CAM 3-axis overhead router system so that we could make better prototypes. We made quite a few prototypes of various sizes and materials; it turned out that the shape was far more important than what it was made out of: a tin satellite dish works just as well as a golden one. So we made hypercube speakers cabinets in many sizes out of wood, metal and plastic. I suppose if we had a kiln we would have tried to bake some ceramic ones. We took them to an AES show in New York, but Audio Engineering has been around 100 years; many experts appear to think all that remains is tweaks and adjustments of known designs.

SO I went back to work, getting a job at Maxim Group as a contract programmer. They sent me to work for Sylvan Learning Systems in Baltimore, where I served on the Internet Team developing and maintaining Active Server Pages on the new test registration website which back then was at educate.com.

I had been wondering whether Sylvan would ever persuade Dave Clayton, the current head of our Internet Team, a contractor, to change his mind and become a regular Sylvan employee as I had elected to do when offered the chance. To be truthful, however, I had accepted partly because of the raise, but also because they seemed serious about reducing their number of contractors and I thought I might be looking for another job if I said no.

Not too long later, my friends Dave Clayton and Adil Asik decided to leave the Internet Team at Sylvan. They had discovered what looked like a better opportunity in Hunt Valley. When Adil asked me if I would like a job there also, I was like “hell yes!”

Walking into the offices of Worldnetpress was positively surreal. I talked to the president, Ken Wahler, and when I walked into his office he had two things waiting for me: a job offer letter…and a box of already-printed personalized company business cards. Worldnetpress was a print-fulfillment company, with their own 5-color print press and a rented printer the size of two BIG refrigerators that could do production quality full-color printing up to poster size from PDF files. So printing up a box of business cards for me before I even accepted the job was “no trouble at all.”

Worldnetpress soon changed its name to Versient and it looked like the good times had finally arrived, even if I was still making little progress in spreading the word about Hypercube resonators. At its heyday Versient had like 12 full-time ASP programmers hammering out new code, and we built some fine things, like custom websites for clients, pages that let users design their own business cards, and even a way to email individualized college brochure PDFs to users with the content customized according to their inputted interests. The company was good to us. We had a *free* soda vending machine and a free snacks vending machine. When we needed to put in extra time on a Saturday occasionally, we were treated to footlong subs and pizza, whatever we wanted. Okay, we didn’t have a Microsoft-sized budget, but we had an owner who loved us and a boss who understood us. The joke around Development on our new second floor was that our boss Dave Clayton was not allowed to do any coding because he was too valuable as a manager. But the truth was that he was one of us, a programmer, and no one could keep him from rolling up his sleeves and programming with us. This was no Dilbert cartoon: we had offices with doors and a boss who could actually program.

Revenues increased, attracting venture capital. As Ken introduced us to his new investors, I could not help remembering my main question to Ken during my hiring interview. I had asked him about how he would manage growth. A time of rapid growth is often a dangerous time for new corporations, when many of them find themselves required to undertake large loans or sell a lot of stock to new investors, both of which expedients can lead to bad craziness. As I recall, his answer was to reassure me that he knew what he was doing.

Soon we began to hear rumors of a merger. It appeared that there was a company in Boston that was similar but had better shipping and storage facilities and more customers. So far, so good. But there was a problem: the other company had programmers, too…and they were working on projects similar to some of ours. When Versient moved Development off the second floor and into a residential brownstone in downtown Baltimore, we told ourselves that it was a good thing; we could get on with our programming without talking to the suits.

Okay, we no longer had offices with doors and had to share rooms. But we thought it was all right, right up to the moment when we were instructed to report to headquarters instead of the brownstone on a Friday.

When I got there, Dave was waiting for me with a severance latter and a box containing my things from the brownstone office. He was sad to inform us that Versient had decided they did not need TWO development teams and 2 competing products….and they had decided to keep the team from Boston instead of us.

What?? Had we done something wrong? Was Ken Wahler mad at us? No, of course not. But Ken was no longer in charge of Versient. He had sold too much of his voting stock to the venture capital investors, and they now controlled the company. With the merger complete, they took control away from Ken and laid us all off.

Versient, formerly Worldnetpress, was no more. Now it was Shamrock Acquisitions, and I was out of a job.

–MRK

Next: Keeping Score at Walter Reed

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Testing Times

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

continuingAfter the AES show we were still broke,so I found a job working for a consulting firm called Maxim Group. They rented me to Sylvan Leaning Systems, who had moved their corporate HQ to the Inner Harbor in Baltimore.

At Sylvan I was assigned Aileen Barry’s new Internet Team. At our first team meeting (which she held in a room with no chairs to make sure we kept it short!), she gave us our assignments. “Matt,” she said, “I want you to develop the ASP pages for the site. “That’s great,” I answered cheerfully. “I just have one question: what are ASP pages?” (I had apparently missed the announcement of ASP’s release the prior year).

ASP code

ASP code

As I soon discovered, ASP pages were basically BASIC programs that created web pages on-the-fly. In other words, when you request an ASP page, the program runs and creates the HTML that your browser receives. Since the HTML you see does not even exist until the ASP program creates it, it is not static HTML — it is dynamic:  it can look different and say different things every time you load it. ASP and its competitors such as ColdFusion and PHP are the workhorses of most websites. Did you just log into a website? Then a script file read your name and password, then accessed a database to see if you are a member. Probably a .ASPX, .CFM, or .PHP program did the work of checking your password in the database and then creating the HTML for the welcome page to send to you.

I was very happy working on those ASP pages. And I was proud of what the team managed to accomplish, because I saw it filled a real need. At the time, Sylvan Prometric was delivering like 200 tests in 2000 centers in 140 countries, and all of the registration for testing appointments was done by the Call Center where a hundred or more unsung minions manned the telephones and made appointments for people in real time, one at a time. Keeping their phones warm.

Clearly, automation could reduce this pain. While others worked on the database connection and the Java applet to be the database client, I created the sequence of ASP pages that extracted information from test candidates via HTML form submissions. Given a variety of variables such as the type of test and zip code a list of testing locations can be selected. Once the location and date are selected, data can be retrieved regarding available testing slots. An available open testing position can be booked and entered into the database; you can book an hour in a particular testing cubicle for a particular test just as you can book seat 23A on a flight from Jacksonville to Miami.

Not everyone was ready for such power-to-the-people help-yourself front end design. When we got the system up and running, Marketing was caught flatfooted and was so disturbed that they came into the office and turned the server off. When we came in early the next morning, we found the server off, so we just turned it back on again, because the website and server belonged to our team and our development group, not to Marketing. It was the beginning of a little friction between the Internet Team and Marketing.

On my part, I learned to hate MS FrontPage, even though I never used it. You see the Marketing department people used FrontPage, and when they heard that we had a working website representing the Sylvan empire for test registration, they felt, naturally, that any media that presented Sylvan to the general public was their business and they wanted a say in how it looked. Which was fine by me; I am NOT a graphic artist and my focus is always on making pages that function; I welcome assistance in making them visually pleasing.

So we sent them the source code for the pages, which they modified using FrontPage. And when I got the modified code back from them…it no longer worked! The early version of FrontPage they were using had let them move test and graphics around on the page…but it mangled or deleted my ACTIONs for the buttons and messed with the JavaScript embedded in the ASP pages. In other words, the pages now looked better, sure, but they were now useless until I fixed the damage FrontPage had wreaked on my code. So I fixed it, but I have to admit that I never trusted FrontPage again.

Sylvan seemed to be satisfied with my efforts as part of the team. Before too long they offered to buy me out from Maxim Group and give me a raise. Which was good, but there was trouble in paradise. The powers in Sylvan for some strange reason were not as pleased with our team leader. Eventually Aileen decided to leave and one of my fellow contractors, David Clayton was raised to team leader. In a way it was funny, because Sylvan had told me that they wanted me as an employee — they had decided that it was better to have in-house employees rather than so many contract programmers. So I changed from contractor to Sylvan employee…but now the boss of the Internet Team was a contractor! David was smart enough to keep his options open.

continuingIt was good to be employed and solvent. But the house I lived in was full of hypercube speakers collecting dust. And now the Patent was expiring. But the truth has no expiration date…and a message must be delivered.
–MRK

Next: The Rise and Fall of Worldnetpress

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