27 February 2012

It's not a tumor

I recently did an online search for mouth cancer on WebMD. A very serious thing to do, right? I've had a really weird symptom that I'm going to spare you from here and not describe, but it had been going on for over a year. I'd mentioned it to my dentist. He didn't have a solution that was last year. It seemed like it was getting worse so I resorted to the (scary music insert here) the internet.

Now, I don't know about you, but I can be a bit of a hypochondriac so I generally avoid medical websites and especially medical television shows. In 10th grade, I thought I needed to go to the emergency room by the time I got done reading the segment for science on how lungs function.

In college we had a campus nurse who jumped to drastic conclusions and it became a joke the whole time we were there. My inquiry over whether I might be having some appendicitis pains brought a suggestion of female organ cancer from the school nurse. A friend of mine with headaches saw the nurse who tried to get er to see the doctor because it might be an aneurism. Really? I was hoping you could give me some Tylenol. This was the 80s and Arnold Schwarzenegger was renown for a silly movie in which he said, "It's not a tumor." (Kindergarten Cop). So we took to saying this line a lot.

So when I went to WebMD, I was really concerned about my weird symptoms or I really wouldn't go there. I got nothing other than a confirmation that I have no symptoms of mouth cancer. I tried quite a few descriptions of my symptoms. Nothing.

In desperation after exhausting a few medical sites, I did a general internet search. It took me to a lay person blog. I will not link to it because frankly the discussion was disgusting. Hilarious but disgusting. In the end, I discovered hundreds of people on this website had the same problem. As a medically uneducated group, they'd come to the conclusion that they were allergic to teeth whitening toothpaste. I figured, what the heck? I'll try it. My symptoms were gone after a toothpaste switch avoiding teeth whitening options. Amazing - thought I'd have to live with this for the rest of my life.

The thing I find humorous is that probably without a serious medical study no one official is going to say, hey, some people have allergies and weird symptoms from whitening products. But a bunch of people can get together on a blog, complain and find a solution.

I have a friend who has kidney stones. She swears each month, ahem, they act up at a certain time. Doctors all say no way. Sure enough she found a blog -- hundreds of women saying the same thing - kidney stone flare up once a month corresponding with being a girl. So a consensus of people can affirm each other when medical science is not ready to talk. Interesting.

09 February 2012

Facial recognition. Cool or Creepy?

I went and saw the latest Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol and regardless of whether you liked it or not I saw something interesting in the opening scene. An agent is trying to find someone in a crowd, but he hasn't as in olden days studied the person so much he can pick him out even in a crowd. He has a way to scan the entire crowd with his phone and that identifies the target. Wild and crazy, right? Handy for agents anyway.

Then I saw this completely serious article that is a discussion of the privacy concerns of facial recognition. I realized as I started reading that there are already sites like Flickr and Facebook using facial recognition software.

I started thinking are the days of privacy winding down to an end. Will we give up anonymity for security in finding the latest bad guy?

Even more interesting, will we give up our opportunity of anonymity for convenience? After all, isn't it handy when Facebook finds the person and says start typing the name to tag the person. You don't have to do all the work of a graphic artist just to show your friends the picture you took of them last night.

I don't have any plot items in mind, but it seems that I am not alone in thinking the idea of facial recognition can be abused a staff attorney at the Federal Trade Commission is asking questions too. I wonder if you could include in a Sci-Fi story that detective use facial recognition to catch cheating spouses via the internet or tapping into security camera networks.  I could see a plot point where government agents gone bad hunt people on the run.
I haven't read anything using this in the story line but I'm sure I will.

No more blending into the crowd, huh?