Posts tagged “disease”

Prasad’s War Story: Skin in the game

Prasad Kantamneni is a Silicon Valley transplant in rural Andhra Pradesh. He lives at the intersection of politics, design, social work, and entrepreneurship.

I was visiting an informant’s home with a couple of colleagues to observe her trying to find information on the Internet.

Things were great – until she opened the door. The first thing we noticed was that the carpet had a lot of pink confetti on it. The confetti seemed to be everywhere. Then things turned scary when we realized that the confetti was skin — lots of it! The informant had shed most of her outer layer of skin.

At this point, all of us were worried that we would catch something. I knew my colleagues did not want to continue with the visit, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful by cancelling the visit without a valid reason. So I made the call to continue.

To give my colleagues an out, I asked them to record the interview — which gave them an excuse to keep standing. I then proceeded to ask her about the kinds of information she looked for on-line. She mentioned that, among other things, she sometimes researched her medical condition. At which point I asked her to do what she would normally do when researching the condition. As she searched for the information, all of us were equally involved, trying to read if the disease was communicable!

Once we realized that the disease was not communicable, we were able to get past our mental block and proceed with the interview.

This is one visit none of us were likely to forget any time soon.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Steven Johnson in TIME on Twitter and innovation – The speed with which users have extended Twitter's platform points to a larger truth about modern innovation. When we talk about innovation and global competitiveness, we tend to fall back on the easy metric of patents and Ph.D.s. It turns out the U.S. share of both has been in steady decline since peaking in the early '70s. (In 1970, more than 50% of the world's graduate degrees in science and engineering were issued by U.S. universities.)…

    But what actually happened to American innovation during that period? We came up with America Online, Netscape, Amazon, Google, Blogger, Wikipedia, Craigslist, TiVo, Netflix, eBay, the iPod and iPhone, Xbox, Facebook and Twitter itself. ..if you measure global innovation in terms of actual lifestyle-changing hit products and not just grad students, the U.S. has been lapping the field for the past 20 years.

    How could the forecasts have been so wrong? The answer is that we've been tracking only part of the innovation story.

  • New Yorker on the significant power of storytelling in the unfolding of the Parrot Flu outbreak in 1929-1930 – Press plays role in raising awareness, hype ensues (kill all parrots!), backlash ensues (Americans are hypochondriacs and there's no such thing as Parrot Flu), small but significant number of sicknesses and deaths (pre-antibiotics) occur, scientists triumph, National Institute of Health is founded. Curious to read this right after watching 1950s plague thriller "Panic in the Streets."

Prepping for Asia

Last week we went to get our vaccinations in preparation for January’s trip to Hong Kong, Bangkok, and India. Already a significant frame shift, for now we’re having conversations about horrible ridiculous diseases that we don’t even think about. I got shot up for Hep A, influenza, and polio. Been taking pills for typhus. And we’ve got pills for malaria to be taken en route.

Strange experience at the injection clinic at Kaiser, our HMO. The reception area is a hallway. With a door opening to the cold outside right next to it, and plenty of foot traffic going through. At least 10 signs on the door with a range of contradictory instructions about how to gain access; the door is locked and you can drop your card (for drop-in, I guess) into a Lucite contraption that seems guaranteed to eat your card, or your card and typed-up-form (for those with appointments who went to reception) into a shelf on the back of the door that seems guaranteed to eat your card. Not clear who should do which, or when. A sign indicates the waiting area. Above an empty part of the wall, where the chairs are quite some distance away. It’s a nightmare; we watched a woman and daughter approach, where the woman clearly had little English, and she didn’t even pay attention to the signs and try to problem-solve with them, she just peered through the small window and tried to make eye contact with someone for help. Good solution, I guess, since the instructions/information design was horrific.

Once inside, we are given a form and a clipboard. The form was a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy (reproductio ad absurdum) that could barely be read and of course included all sorts of information (name, address, contact info, member number) that was redundant to what was already captured by the computer form from reception.

And the injection nurse was the nicest, coolest most helpful person you could ever hope to meet in a healthcare situation! The human factor was awesome; the human factors were terrible. She talked to us about her own travels; advised us about injections based on good information re: the types of exposure based on types of activity, side-effects and so on. She had decorated the small injection room with blowups of her own exotic travel pictures. We had a good time with her.

Meanwhile, we also got our visa from the Indian consulate in San Francisco. You show up with all your paperwork between 9am and noon, and then show up at 4:00 to pick up your finished visa (in fact, they hold onto your passport for this time and put a special document into one of the pages). Upon our return we got the horrible customer service question for Anne: “Could it be under another name?” but eventually they found it. Turned out they had held it because she was red-flagged. Based on occupation. Yep, a social worker is required to come in and sign a special form declaring they won’t practice any social work while in India. I bet Indian visitors to the US are scrutinized for possibly taking tech jobs illegally, but when we go over there, we are forbidden from possibly engaging in any social work!

Anyway, the form was signed and the visa was issued shortly. There was something strange and ironic about it all; I suspect that may be the theme for the whole trip.


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