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Various Fires
Worked at A Large Medical Device Company
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Various Fires

Drink Recipes  - 
The Hella Word

My wife dropped by our excellent cocktail supply (Boston Shaker) this afternoon and came home with three excellent treats:

- Hella Bitters citrus bitters
- Cocktail Kingdom's coffee bitters
- The Bitter End Memphis BBQ bitters

I took first pass at making a drink with the Memphis BBQ bitters - I tried a smoky/spicy variant on a Negroni, which wasn't great. However, my wife came up with the following drink, which she is calling 'The Hella Word' (a variant on a Last Word):

1.5 oz. St. George's Terroir Gin
0.5 oz Green Chartreuse
0.25 oz Stirrings Ginger liquor
5-7 drops of the Hella citrus bitters
a little bit of lime juice

It was a beautifully balanced drink, and it seemed worth sharing. It's a very gin forward drink, so the gin used will really impact the quality of the drink. I think one of the reasons this drink works so well is that the St. George's brings such a wonderful depth of flavor that the entire drink just sings and really has a beautiful balance.
Chris Messina's profile photoPaul Irish's profile photo
Awesome. I backed Benjamin's kickstart to get his citrus bitters up and going: Love 'em, good choice
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Hanging at Brick & of finest cocktail bars in Boston. This cocktail list is just so beautifully crafted.

From the simpler spirit forward drinks like the 4-5-6 and the Dartmouth to the more extravagant Take Your Top Off and Guelagetza, the choice of ingredients and the creativity make this one of my favorite cocktail lists.

After a rough day at work today, the Teardrop I am enjoying is really hitting the spot!

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I just ran across this article laying out the relative merits and strengths of the Apple, Samsung, and Google innovation models (h/t Flipboard)

While the author makes the argument that Apple is currently in the driver’s seat among the three companies, it seems that in the current climate, the Google model may be in a much stronger position at this particular moment. With no more insight than what comes from hours wasted reading tech news daily, between Google and Apple, it seems that one of the big differences maybe the value placed on Research vs. Development.

This seems best reflected in the much publicized projects currently in development at the two companies. For Apple this would be the upcoming smart watch and some deeper entry into our living rooms via Apple TV or some other TV technology. For Google, this would be the driverless car and their own wearable technology, Google Glass.

I would argue that these projects reflect the R&D priorities of the two companies. In particular, the focus on either R or D.

For Apple, this is about improving on current experiences, and falls heavily into product development innovations – focusing on human factors designs and maybe also business practice innovations that impact how we purchase and consume content. These fall squarely in the camp of Development.

For Google, creating driverless cars or integrating information from Google Glass, seems to rely on more underlying technology development. While this isn’t necessarily Research, in the pure academic sense, it reflects more of an R&d sensibility than Apple’s r&D focus. This also seems reflected in their 20% creative time for engineers ethos.

Obviously, both approaches have had their respective successes, and both will almost certainly have more in the future. However, I would argue that we have exhausted the world of mobile and social technology. The future is unclear with regards to what the next key technology platforms will be. While Apple may be able to leverage their current platforms and dominance into new successes and innovations, I think I would rather be Google right now.

Of course, I am speaking from the perspective of a Technologist, and I would much rather be part of the organization that seems to value exploring new territories and new technology, even if the immediate monetization isn’t immediately obvious.
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Yes, I am interested enough in winning a free Nexus 4 to repost this contest from +DroidLife.

I've just gone back from my Samsung Nexus S to my HTC G2...The G2 is much smoother with better battery life, but of course it lacks Jelly Bean, and Google Now.

Anyway, I'm in the process of trying to decide what direction to go next, and perhaps the choice could be pleasantly taken out of my hands if I wina Nexus 4 :-)....
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[DISCLOSURE: I am a research scientist for a medical device company. In my role, I am absolutely familiar with some of the common frustrations that come with regulatory oversight, and I have had personal projects come to a grinding halt due to the costs associated with negotiating the regulatory landscape. I think it is only fair that anyone reading this knows this background.]

The FDA recently expanding the claims for the HIV drug Truvada. Truvada had previously been approved as an anti-viral drug for treatment of HIV-positive patients, but the new approval expands the use to HIV-negative people for prevention of contracting HIV.

The NPR article below talks about some of the impact of the drug. Briefly, this is a drug that has been shown to reduce the risk of contracting HIV by about 40% (both treatment and control group also receive counseling about safe sex practices). There are a number of advocacy groups and experts who are concerned about the approval, as it may lead users on the drug to practice less safe sex. For a drug that is only about 40% effective, this seems to be a serious consideration. However, is this a consideration that is under the jurisdiction of FDA in approving the drug?

In particular, should/is the FDA empowered to consider the practical treatment effects, or should they simply be asked to review the scientific evidence surrounding an empirical claim, like a 40% reduction in HIV contraction rates.

I think this is a very important and interesting question, as this is not the first time I have encountered this question. In one case, a colleague had developed an anti-bacterial coating for a semi-invasive device. Their group was able to show that the coating reduced bacterial buildup by something like 90%, but the FDA wouldn't approve the coating unless they also showed that the bacterial reduction improved patient outcomes.

When I first heard about this case, my reaction was that this greatly overstepped the bounds of the FDA, and it should be on the shoulders of the  clinical community to determine whether the anti-bacterial coating was worth (what I assume would be) an additional cost. However, the Truvada situation seems far less obvious to me. Is 40% enough of a reduction to approve this use in light of the potentially negative consequences of decreases in safe sex practices?

Clearly, the scope and mandate of the FDA will continue to be a source of friction between industry and the FDA, but I hope we can also have more meaningful discussion around the impacts of either limiting or expanding that mandate.
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Finally had a chance to read/listen to this conversation between +Eric Schmidt and Peter Thiel. It's a bit scattered, and the discussion heads down several tangents, but worth checking out. I highly recommend checking out the whole thing, but I want to call attention to a key passage:

PETER THIEL:  But, they're not ones that are able to basically ‑‑ you know, they're sort of the exception to the rule that we don't have enough innovation.  So, you have to avoid confusing the specific and the general.  Google is a great company.  It has 30,000 people, or 20,000, whatever the number is.  They have pretty safe jobs.  On the other hand, Google also has 30, 40, 50 billion in cash.  It has no idea how to invest that money in technology effectively.  So, it prefers getting zero percent interest from Mr. Bernanke, effectively the cash sort of gets burned away over time through inflation, because there are no ideas that Google has how to spend money.


ADAM LASHINSKY:  I'm going to go to the audience very soon, but I want you to have the opportunity to address your quality of investments, Eric.

ERIC SCHMIDT:  I think I'll just let his statement stand.

ADAM LASHINSKY:  You don't want to address the cash horde that your company does not have the creativity to spend, to invest?

ERIC SCHMIDT:  What you discover in running these companies is that there are limits that are not cash.  There are limits of recruiting, limits of real estate, regulatory limits as Peter points out.  There are many, many such limits.  And anything that we can do to reduce those limits is a good idea.

PETER THIEL:  But, then the intellectually honest thing to do would be to say that Google is no longer a technology company, that it's basically ‑‑ it's a search engine.  The search technology was developed a decade ago.  It's a bet that there will be no one else who will come up with a better search technology.  So, you invest in Google, because you're betting against technological innovation in search.  And it's like a bank that generates enormous cash flows every year, but you can't issue a dividend, because the day you take that $30 billion and send it back to people you're admitting that you're no longer a technology company.  That's why Microsoft can't return its money.  That's why all these companies are building up hordes of cash, because they don't know what to do with it, but they don't want to admit they're no longer tech companies.

The points made by Peter Thiel are pretty interesting - In particular, his claim that Google has no new ideas, so it is just sitting on cash. I think this is probably a rather simplistic view, but it does raise a really interesting question of how these companies should be investing their cash.

In the med tech space, where there is a lot more development costs than in the consumer tech areas (especially in software companies), there is a lot of reluctance to invest the cash on hand in organic innovation programs when the money can be used to buy innovation from startups that have done the hard work of establishing and maturing a technology.

This approach is disappointing, but not necessarily a bad one for larger organizations. Most of the time they are not very good at running early stage research programs, and when they are, they really struggle to transition technology out of their research labs to commercialization. So, it's not surprising that many of these companies come to the conclusion that they are better off sitting on the cash and looking for targeted acquisitions.

I think this culture really leads to some of the lack of big hardware/manufacturing innovation that Peter Thiel is arguing in favor of. Some of these bigger opportunities/innovations require resources that sometimes only a larger company can bring to the table. So, relying on venture backed startups to supply an innovation pipeline inherently limits the types of innovations and technologies that get developed.
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Various Fires

Drink Recipes  - 
It's been a crazy week here in Boston, and thanks to the unbelievably heroic actions of law enforcement, this chapter has come to a close.

Enjoying a drink at home seems silly and shallow when set against the actions of first responders and those who put their well being on the line for all the citizens of Boston and the Commonwealth. However, in my own (very) small way, I raise a glass to toast the amazing men and women who have managed to resolve this insanity with truly minimal bloodshed.

Towards this end, and in honor of Boston's finest, I give you the Boston Blue:

- Rinse a lowball glass with an anisette (I used Pernod) and pour 0.25oz of Creme de Violette in the bottom of the glass

- Stir the following with ice:
1.5oz Absolut Boston
0.5oz St Germaine
2-4 dashes of Scrappys Lavender bitters

- Strain into the glass with the Creme de Violette
- garnish with a lemon peel

Ideally, I imagined layering the Creme de Violette with the rest f the cocktail, but this is a skill I simply don't possess.

If you don't have Absolut Boston (which I imagine most people don't), substitute a nice botanical gin, and always think of Boston's finest when drinking!

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Discussion  - 
The Double Dutch at backbar (Somerville, MA):

Dutch Gin (Bols Genever)
Dutch Masters Cigar Tincture
A Littel Mezcal
Walnut Syrup

One of the most beautiful and balanced cocktails I've had in a while. Major kudos to the ultra talented mixologists at backbar!
Chris Messina's profile photoVarious Fires's profile photo
+Chris Messina sorry for the late response, but I don't have proportions. Next time I am in backbar, I'll see if I can get the proportions and report back.
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Drink Recipes  - 
I'm new to the community, but thought I'd start using this a place (among some others) to post about some of the fine craft cocktails I get to enjoy living in Boston, and also some of my own home experiences/experiments.

Sunday's are always a nice night to experiment a bit at home. Tonight, I was looking for a cocktail in remembrance of two men close to my family. Both men enjoyed their whiskey, and one of them was quite a fan of wine. So, with that in mind, I decided to look for a cocktail bringing together whiskey and port.

I turned to my usual online source,, and I came up with The Country Life Cocktail. The recipe is as follows:

3/4 oz Jamaican Rum
3/4 oz Port
1 oz Bourbon
2 dashes angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Stir these ingredients with ice, strain, and serve in a cocktail glass

I made two changes to the recipe as listed. First, we didn't have any Jamaican Rum in the house. However, one of the men we were remembering was Indian, so I chose to use Old Monk Rum in his honor. Second, I wanted to use something less sweet than bourbon for the whiskey component, so I chose to use Bowmore Legend, a mildly peaty Islay scotch.

Overall, a very lovely and enjoyable drink. I think it was good choice to avoid the Bourbon, but the Bowmore, which is quite mild for an Islay scotch, still overpowered some of the other flavors. I would gladly make this again, but I would probably use a rye whiskey next time around.
Joe LaPenna's profile photoJulian Bond's profile photoChris Messina's profile photo
Welcome +Various Fires — great first post!
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An Android user's first week with an iPad mini

Not sure if this review will matter to anyone, but I figured I'd put out my intiial thoughts.

First, let's get the background out of the way...On the smartphone side, I've been an Android loyalist ever since I entered the smartphone world a couple of years ago. On the PC side, I switched from the Windows world to Macs and haven't looked back.

Anyway, I recently decided it was time to take the plunge and buy my first tablet. I quickly realized that I didn't want a 10" tablet due to the weight and bulk, so I came down to choosing between the iPad mini and the Nexus 7. There was a lot to recommend the Nexus 7, but the iPad mini won out due to the lower weight, longer battery life, and most importantly, I preferred the 4:3 7.9" screen to the 16:9 7" screen (resolution issues aside).

My first impressions of the hardware have been almost entirely positive. I love the size/weight ratio - it's incredibly comfortable to hold in one hand and use on the sofa or on an airplane. The biggest weakness which has been alluded to in every review is the screen resolution. I think this makes the biggest difference with reading text. I haven't had a major complaint with video or pictures, but I can definitely see where a higher resolution screen would be a vast improvement for text clarity.

I also find that the smoothness of the touchscreen is noticeably (but not overwhlemingly) better than any of the Android phones I've used - though I've not used any of the major flagship phones of the last year or so. However, I do feel like this remains a major strength of the iOS experience.

Now, the big issue - the switch from using Android platforms to iOS. Overall, I'm finding about 80% of the time it simply doesn't matter...I'm either in a specific application that works well on either platform and it's not a big deal. However, there are some definite differences, and I'm finding some major flaws/weaknesses in iOS.

The biggest complaint I have is the way different applications interact (or don't) with each other. I am frequently frustrated that trying to share or link from one application to another often does not offer me access to all the applications on the iPad.

The other simple piece of the Android experience that I miss terribly is the 'Back' button. It's very frustrating when an app opens another app, but I can't simply go back to the originating app without going back to the home screen and then re-entering the originating app.

In summation, I think that if an Android manufacturer made a tablet with a similar form factor, I'd probably switch over. However, if this remains the lone 4:3 aspect ratio table with this combination of weight and battery life, I imagine I'll probably trade up to the 2nd generation if it has a Retina Display.

As I said at the beginning, not sure if anyone will see this post, but if you do, I hope it helps if you're trying to decide what to get.
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There is no doubt that predictive data analytic tools that optimize care and delivery will be big players in the coming years in health care. However, let's not delude ourselves into thinking that this is going to have a radical impact on either health costs or health care.

While these Big Data approaches to health care may inspire the occasional/rare breakthrough in treatment, these systems will mostly serve to simply improve the efficiency and optimize delivery of the current health care system. The real impacts on health care will only come from advances that develop fundamental science. As we move medicine from art to science, the real impact on the system will come from technology that enables less skilled (i.e. cheaper) labor to deliver better health care.
Move over, retrospective data analysis--the future is in real-time and predictive analytics and web-based systems that aggregate disparate data across diverse care settings.
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I just learned the word "skeuomorphic" - particularly, as it applies to software/UI design.

This article makes the argument that Apple's heavy reliance on skeuomorphic design fails at creating a consistent UI experience across different skeuomorphic apps while running counter to their highly lauded hardware design principles.

+Mike Elgan (the author of this piece) touts +Microsoft's Metro UI as an elegant example of a UI that eschews skeuomorphic design for a clean, minimalist approach, and the argument is rather compelling.

However, as it was the first time I had thought about this, it struck me that the inconsistency in Apple's design choices may very well reflect poor 'Taste,' but it may also be responsible for a lot of Apple's success, and the distinction between hardware design and software design may reflect a real difference in how we interact with hardware versus software.

Simplicity and minimalism have great aesthetic value in the tangible, real world aspects of hardware. Complexity in hardware seems daunting - too many buttons, knobs, etc. However, in software, which is a necessary interface into a world of 1's and 0's that we are not equipped to conceptualize, I think skeuomorphic designs help the user enter an unfamiliar world through familiar elements.

I don't disagree with +Mike Elgan's points that Apple's inconsistency in their use of skeuomorphic design across applications feels like sloppy design, but I'm not so convinced that the inconsistency with hardware is necessarily a bad thing.
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I tend to think that Apple has been taking skeuomorphism too far lately, and forgetting that the original reason for it was to bring familiarity to new digital options. It is not necessary to slavishly mimic every single aesthetic detail of the physical design in order to reap the benefits of skeuomorphic interfaces--only the functional elements of the physical design. So, a volume control that looks like a knob? Good. A fast-forward button that disengages a virtual magnetic head from a virtual tape reel? Overkill. A faux leather desk planner for a calendar, thus preventing you from seeing any more at once than you actually would with a desk planner? Bad.

In general, I prefer minimalist modern designs. But it is absolutely possible to go too far in that direction. Metro does. It has removed almost all cues to the user as to the nature of elements on the screen. Content looks like controls look like metacontent. Important interactive elements are only discoverable by poking around and trying them, and there isn't even a good way to decide which things are actually interactive and worth poking.

Furthermore, one of the principles of skeuomorphism is that things should behave like it looks like they should--that's the whole point of mimicking familiar objects. This is true even for a non-skeuomorphic interface, to the degree that it applies. So, to take a specific example from Windows 8: if I mouse into the corner of the screen, it pops up a little graphic that indicates I can now do something. I can not, however, click on the little graphic, because if I move the mouse pointer away from the exact corner, the graphic disappears. I have to learn that, despite looking like a button, it is not a button. I can not click it. It should either remain visible, once activated, until the mouse pointer leaves the area it occupies, or it should be drawn in such a way that the mouse pointer is clearly interacting with it while still in the corner.
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  • A Large Medical Device Company
    Principal Research Scientist
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