Killer massager

So, I read a post about how a machine (specifically, a neck massage machine) is turning against human beings (specifically, killing a person). And, since I work with patents in the kinesitherapy arts (massage devices), I decided to look for the patent.

The post gave the name of the product, but it did not show what the massage mechanism looked like. After some searching on Google, I found the recall announcement by the FDA. The company name is "King International."
This announcement gave more information about the device.
Location of King International: Beaverton, OR
Year the device started to sell: 2003

After searching some more on google, I found out how the device worked.

So, this device has a rotating part that has protrusions. It seems like the protrusions got caught on something (necklace or clothing) and strangled a user.

Then, using some quick text searching in Google Patents with terms like "deep massage," "neck" and "floor," the following results came up:
Google Patents Search Results

US Patent # 6,589,192
Name of inventor: King Yiu Chan and Si Ming Du
Address of inventors: Beaverton, OR
Year of patent: 2003
Figure 3 of the invention looks like the second row of figures on the website.

Rough break for the inventors and it's sad that someone was lost because of a machine gone awry, but I guess these things happen. This was just very interesting to me, being able to connect the things I see in patents to the outside, consumer world. I even told me supervisor about this.

Also, by some rare chance, if anyone owns this device and sees this post, please act according to the FDA recall announcement.


Emails to the point

A few times when I sent emails at work, the recipient did not reply to all my questions or may have given me less information that I asked for. This also sometimes happens in personal emails. Noncompliance to emails is also an issue.

Therefore, here are points from HBR's management tip that might help.

1. One idea per paragraph. Start a new paragraph for every new idea or request.
2. Put your point in the first sentence. Be straightforward first and explain later.
3. Make it "scannable." Use bullet points. Nobody reads paragraphs of emails; they scan them.


Interesting patents

While skimming through patents, I would note the interesting and funny ones. These are from patent publications available to the public. Here are some (Click image to see larger image):

Garment for a baby with a handle to pick them up.

A vibrating rod that you put in your mouth to prevent from falling asleep

Seatbelt for the toilet?! Actually, it's a bowel help you do your business.

Apparently, there is more than one patent where you can dispense anesthesia to little children through a toy telephone.

Bubbleman's sink and bathroom..

I just think this picture is funny. It's a portable bath.

There is nothing interesting about this, except that my family has this at home. Looks exactly like it.

Finished "Outliers"

I finished reading "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell at work yesterday, while waiting to start the day with a lecture.

Overall, I liked the book. It gave me a lot of insight on how to raise my kids to be "successful." It somewhat seemed like it was too late to practice some of these for myself, but there's still many good lessons learned.

1. In order to get good at something, we need to continually persist, no matter how often we fail or succeed. That's pretty obvious, but there's no short-cut. We need to just continue to work at it and perfect it. I forget the examples, but for some reason, Chinese people and rice farming comes to mind. Another thing is 10,000 hours to become brilliant at something. He gave the example of Bill Gates and the Beatles and how they cranked out 10,000 hours at programming and playing music, respectively, prior to their popularity, which is about 8 hours a day, every day for 3.5 years. Or, if it's 8 hours per weekday, that'd be ~4.7 years.
2. Kids that fully utilize summer vacation to do nothing fall behind those that continue education throughout the summer (usually strictly encouraged by parents, generally parents that have time and/or money to pay attention to their kids).
3. Little advantages in education gradually adds up. So start now, work little by little and keep at it. Persistence will bring you far.

(I'll have to flip through it again to see if there were other things)

Funny thing is that I was reading an article somewhere (I think it was a blog on MIT TR), but it mentioned how Gladwell was known for being very ambitious in defining causations.


Government shutdown??

Lately, I've been keeping up with the federal government budget news and how the 2011 budget has not yet been approved. I've only been keeping up with this because the DoD is affected by this (as are many other agencies) and I'm still waiting for an official job offer from the Army, which is under DoD. There has been talk of a "government shutdown," where the government cannot be funded. However, a budget was passed today to temporarily prevent a shutdown for another 2 weeks (Source: The Huffington Post).

The DoD is actually trying to push for a larger budget, according to Federal News Radio. Near the end of the broadcast, the lady says to forget about the patent reform and put more money into the DoD.

Finally, another broadcast last week has the CFOs of the DoD and PTO talking about the budget and the potential shutdown. Funny thing is that I currently work for the PTO and am also waiting for an official job offer from DoD (I have already been unofficially approved for the job). However, because of the lack of defined budgets, the Army has been forced to delay this.


Are you signal or noise?

I just read an interesting blog post at TR talking about signal and noise. I was attracted to the article after seeing the title because I have some background (course work) in signal processing.

The author talks about the usefulness of a certain website. However, it's usefulness may have been compromised due to fruitless discussions and straying from the main topic.

Basically, what I can apply to my life..
When I talk, am I signal or noise? Is the signal significantly stronger than the noise? Signal is something meaningful, useful and exactly what the data processor (listener) is looking for. Noise is the burdensome extraneous information that prevents the data processor from extracting the meaningful signal.

Also, this is a reason why I do not share too often. I feel like a lot of noise comes out when I try to convey a signal. Sometimes, I don't have the proper experiences or insight to contribute. Other times, the information is so jumbled in my head that I have trouble getting out a filtered signal. Hopefully, one day, I will learn to filter the data that comes out of my mouth to prevent the noise from disrupting the signal too much.

Maximize the signal-to-noise ratio. 


Anyone can innovate

Anyone can innovate.

According to an article in MIT Tech Review, a massive amount of consumers are innovators. They purchase products and customize them to fit their needs. They tinker with things they buy. A survey in the UK showed that there are many more tinkers than those employed as product developers and spend twice as much money when compared to company R&D costs. Even still, many companies often do not listen to these independent innovators.

What does this tell you?

You don't need to be employed as an "engineer" or have a formal title like "director of innovation" to be an innovator. Anyone can do it. You determine your own capabilities and pursue them. We may not have access to the resources and funds that industry R&D engineers have. Therefore, independent innovators would just need to be more adaptive and INNOVATIVE with resources and funding. We just need to be creative, which EVERYONE is capable of.

So, putting all these minor innovators and innovations together, it can create a social network for innovation. Everyone else seems to be exploiting social networking, Why not innovation?


Shocking for solutions

Very interesting..
Research subjects who received electrical stimulation of the anterior temporal lobes of the brain were 3 times more likely to come up with the fresh insight needed to solve a difficult, unfamiliar problem than people in a control group, according to Richard Chi and Allan Snyder of the University of Sydney. The researchers say they envision a future when noninvasive brain stimulation is briefly employed for solving problems that have evaded traditional cognitive approaches.
Give everyone a device that shocks your anterior temporal lobe to make everyone more innovative problem solvers. I would like one.

Source: HBR Daily Stat, Feb 22, 2011; Original Link


Roseto Mystery

I just started reading "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell because the other book I was reading is uninteresting.

There was a group of Italian people in PA in the 1950s with a lower prevalence of heart disease, no suicide, alcoholism and drug addiction, and little crime. Roseto seemed like a perfectly healthy society, death occurring solely due to old age. Dr. Wolf goes there to do some tests and studies to determine what is different. He discovered that this extraordinary health is not due to diet, exercise, genes or location. He discovered that the factor was the community, the unity of the people. Everyone chatted with each other. Three generations of the family live together. No one boasted of wealth and failures were concealed. Each individual in the town would consider all the others.

(You can read this here or try to find the book at your local bookstore.)

What if these principles were applied to the church? What if the church follows this community-mentality? Would the spiritual health of God's people improve?

Any time there is a group of people, unity is very important. Without unity, there is no group, thus defeating the purpose of the group. Unity can allow us to make decisions for the greater good, putting aside personal desires. Unity will allow us to love one another, knowing that this love affects the entire community. Any schism or pain in the community affects everyone (1 Corinthians 12:26). Unity will conceal failures, weaknesses (Proverbs 17:9) and pray for them (Galatians 6:1; 1 John 5:16), yet also keep strengths (talents) humble. This unity displays the presence of Christ (John 17:23), which is the purpose of life, to glorify God. However, for the spiritual health to improve, this unity needs to be based on Christ. Spiritual health will increase the quality of servitude, the working of God in the church and hopefully, an increasing number in those saved.

So, how can we show unity? We can learn from Roseto. Talk to one another when you bump into each other and say "hi." Respect those that are older. Don't create division by boasting of your strengths; hide the weaknesses of others. Pray for each other and care for each other as if they are part of your family, part of the one body.

Notable quote spoken on 2/18/2011 and added to this post on 2/18/2011:
Quote by AAOS president, Dr. Daniel Berry, from the 2011 AAOS annual meeting: “Unity requires constant maintenance, reassurance, compromise and actions that demonstrate we are set on working together.”
Source: ODTmag


FDA reform

Lately, the FDA reform has been in medical device news; things from the departure of the 2nd-in-command at the FDA to the controversial 510(k) approval of the ReGen Meneflex Meniscus implant scaffold.

Partly due to the latter event, the FDA has decided to reform many of it's practices, including a revamp of the 510(k) process. There did not seem to be a very transparent process for 510(k) approval, according to this entry at MDG. Many factors of the process were often dependent on something else.

Another factor was the slow process of approval, which is hindering American innovation. PwC announced a study of healthcare innovation and the United States' score against international players, showing that other countries are catching up. Often times, manufacturers would seek approval in foreign countries because the process would be quicker than through the FDA. FDA will try to speed up the process, but it must be reasonable: “Unnecessary and unreasonable delays for safe and effective products not only hurt innovation, they unfairly punish patients who are relying on America's med-tech entrepreneurs for help.”

The FDA released 25 changes that they plan to implement. The FDA will also collaborate with external experts more. Also, according to the "Innovation Pathway," the FDA plans on trying to speed up the approval process of innovative devices that significantly improve treatments, treat a terminal disease with no treatment, address a public need or address national security (ODTmag). 

Now, we watch for the FDA to implement the changes and see if it can improve American healthcare innovation, while still maintaining patient safety.

Social networking in medicine

I read two articles today about social networking in medicine. Social networking is in every other industry, why not medicine? Just need to figure out how to use it.

1. TR
2. MDG

From the perspective of manufacturers, social networking can track how influential a medical practitioner is in spreading the use of a technology that they recently started prescribing or using. By mining medical-claims data and analyzing partnerships and referrals, manufacturers can market to those that are the most influential.

Analyzing the network of patients can even show some patterns like similar weight gain in a network. However, there could be other factors involved and correlation does not always mean causation.

More positively, social networking among patients can bring patients together through the web to exchange advice, encouragement and experiences. Specifically, the article talked about diabetes management. However, the article mentions many shortcomings to the websites such as lack of security and not enough disclaimers.


Areas for medical innovation: Telemedicine & Prevention

So, after reading a blog post about telemedicine, I learned that this has a lot of potential.

1. Telemedicine will be a powerful disruptive innovation. Doctors will not need to be physically proximal to the patients that are being screened. A technician (which is much cheaper than a doctor) can gather the data, images, scans, etc. and then upload them onto a server that a skilled doctor can analyze from the other side of the world and respond with the diagnosis. Healthcare will be more accessible. Therefore, cheaper and more portable technologies need to be developed for existing imaging tools.

2. Another area is preventive technology. A decent amount of medicine is powered by treating health problems when they arise, but a much more advantageous development would be to prevent the illness altogether (which could also potentially reduce the cost of healthcare). Research needs to be conducted on who is susceptible to certain types of preventable diseases and then technologies for these diseases geared toward the susceptible population can be developed to prevent them.

Anyway, on a different note, I find it funny (and somewhat sad) that there are these business people and professionals flaming each other in the comments section in some posts on


A mouth to the slow of speech

This is a testimony about saying thanksgiving grace, btw.

I dread speaking publicly.

I can speak with a decent volume (even though it may not be dynamic), but the flow of content is often choppy. In the past, I blank out in the middle of speaking and proceed to say something very generic or butchered. I would stutter, say words that don't fit into the sentence or just be silent. One time, during Bible study, I was sharing something and I blanked out, stopped talking and everyone sat there in awkward silence.

Today, I was assigned to say thanksgiving grace in front of the congregation and I was nervous. In the past, I would wing it, write stuff down or repeatedly run through it in my head. I usually like to say something unique. However, this time I took a different approach.

During the sermon, I was preoccupied with what I would say; I forced myself to pay attention to the sermon. During the final prayer, I prayed about saying grace. I told God that I was nervous because I am a terrible public speaker. But, why was I nervous? The answer was obvious: I didn't want to look incompetent in front of the congregation. I had the wrong mentality, so there's no way God will work through me. I was doing this for myself, instead of doing it for God. So, I asked God to clear my mind. I told God that I was not going to do this for myself, but I will do this only to glorify God, to serve God. All God wants is sincerity. I must be sincerely thanking God; anything less is a worthless offering. I asked God to erase everything I've been thinking about and that I will solely rely on Him to sincerely give thanks to Him.

For the rest of prayer, I prayed about other things. Prayer ended. I grabbed a seat hidden in the corner in the front. I stopped thinking about what I would say. Announcements were quick. Then, it was time for me to go up. Brother Jordan stood there to interpret into Chinese. So, I started speaking. Generally, I believe I said what most others would say, but thank God, I was able to be sincere about each statement, being thankful for the warmth, the food, the sermon, the love of the "servants," the Sabbath rest. And, by God's grace, I did not stutter, have awkward silences or have an awkward combination of words..I think. =)

God taught me a lesson through this experience.
  1. I need to be sincere when I speak, whether I'm saying thanksgiving grace, sharing something during a Bible study, talking to other brothers and sisters, teaching the RE students, adding insight to a discussion or (hopefully, one day) speaking on the pulpit. Deep down inside, you must truly believe and ideally, have experienced, what you say.
  2. Additionally, when doing any sort of work for God, it must solely be for Him and not to feed my pride. 
  3. I must rely on Him to finish the work.
Overall, today was a great and much-needed Sabbath. Good sermons, good prayers, good fellowship.

May all glory be to God, always.


[Healthcare] "The Velluvial Matrix," Stanford School of Medicine Commencement Speech

by: Atul Gawande (yes, I searched his name on The New Yorker to read all these articles)

This is an excerpt near the end:
You are joining a special profession. Doctors and scientists, we are all in the survival business, but we are also in the mortality business. Our successes will always be restricted by the limits of knowledge and human capability, by the inevitability of suffering and death. Meaning comes from each of us finding ways to help people and communities make the most of what is known and cope with what is not.
Read more at The New Yorker

An inspiring statement for anyone working in the healthcare industry from the R&D researchers in medical device, biotech or pharma companies to the doctors and nurses on the front lines of healthcare. I guess that's what commencement speeches are for, a call to action after receiving all this education.

"Letting Go" by Atul Gawande

If you couldn't tell, I enjoy reading Dr. Gawande's writing.

"What should medicine do when it can't save your life?"

This article discusses the issue of continued treatment on terminal patients. He talks about many cases of how some patients opted to try every possible treatment or even experimental and untested treatments to battle disease, while others chose to cease treatments that resulted in side-effects that destroy the patient's quality of life and enter a palliative care or hospice program to end life peacefully.

Some things that struck me was:
  1. The cost of the patient's healthcare was lower for those that decided for hospice care as opposed to those that continued treatments.
  2. The length of life was not significantly longer in those that continued treatment versus those that went to palliative care.
  3. Aetna conducted an experiment resulting in fewer emergency room, hospital and ICU visits for those that could continue treatment and have palliative care.
He concluded by saying the best way to determine the desired path of treatment is to discuss the possibility of death with the patient and family, yet remaining very sensitive about the topic.

Source: The New Yorker


[Career] Interview with USPTO

Today, I had a phone interview with a supervisory patent examiner in the imaging and diagnostics field of the biotechnology division. It was a very nice conversation. I asked him plenty of questions about working for the PTO and since he has been there for ~9 years, he knew all the answers. We even talked about the Vibram five fingered shoes.

Some things that stood out to me during our conversation.
  • Patent examiners cannot apply for patents because they would have an unfair advantage.
  • After working for 2 years at the PTO, you can be eligible for hoteling (or working at home). You would only need to go to the office in Alexandria, VA occasionally. So, patent examiners could work from home anywhere in the country. They would provide you with the laptop, monitor, printer, everything you need to work from home.
  • Depending on your GS level, you would need to examine a patent in a certain amount of time. He gave me the example that someone may be expected to examine a patent in 11 hours (i.e. look up all prior art, determine if the invention is patentable, etc).
  • Prior to being let loose in the PTO, you will take courses and training for 4 months, 40 hours a week. That's more hours than k-12 and college. However, you do receive a certificate at the end.
  • I believe he mentioned that the USPTO plans on hiring 1000 patent examiners a year for a few years. Budgets are being examined all over in the government, but apparently, the US is trying to promote innovation as shown by this activity plus that of the FDA and energy.

A variation of some questions they ask:
  • How did you handle a tight time constraint?
  • When writing a technical report, what was your plan of action, who was your audience and what was the result of this report?
  • How have you dealt with a difficult customer or client (can also talk about difficult professors, advisors, group members, classmates, etc)?
  • Describe a time you had to make a decision and how it affected your project or others?

[CAD] 3D GoogleTalk

Date completed: 04/21/2010
Software: SolidWorks

I wanted to post something today, so here's a 3D creation of GoogleTalk. I did this just for some creative fun. All the dimensions are relatively accurate and every button, name and icon are separate parts in this assembly, a total of 43 unique parts.

I blurred out the names to protect their identities.


[Life] Trimmed the filamentous biomaterial that projects from my scalp

So, after a long time of not cutting my hair, getting complaints about my hair, little kids making fun of my hair and being a focal point of attention, I finally cut my hair. As always, I cut it by myself. Here are before and after pictures.

I look like a delinquent in this picture; I'm not. I try to be a good person that contributes to society. =)

Of course my conservative mother would not let me be seen with hair like that, so I will normally put it down.

[Entrepreneurship] Ideas already done..

Laptop triple screen
So a few years ago, I had this idea of extending the laptop screen by having a flip out monitor or a panel that extends out. However, after telling some friends and they did some research, it was already done. One innovative idea dashed. Here are a few existing ones.

Shoe accelerometer
So, a few days ago I thought, why not put an accelerometer into a shoe and it'll know how long you ran for, how fast you went and how far you ran. The data would be very interesting to analyze such as when you started slowing down, when your form changed, etc. However, of course Nike would've already had something like this.
It's pretty cool, check it out:

[Business] Good, Cheap and Fast?

Dear Customer, you can have any of the following, but pick any 2.
- Good
- Cheap
- Fast
If you want Good and Cheap - it won't be Fast.
If you want Cheap and Fast - it won't be Good.
And, if you really want Good and Fast - no way will it be Cheap.
I like this comment that was left on a blog for the book "Do More Faster" (Source:


God, the Solution to All Problems

The other day, I felt unsettled and it left me feeling like my heart dropped. I called a friend of mine and told this person that I was feeling a bit down. I didn't need any comfort, I didn't need someone to vent to. I just wanted to tell this person how I felt. I already knew the solution. Then, I went on to say that after this phone conversation, I will kneel down to pray and I'd feel comforted and much better.

So, after this 1 minute conversation, I knelt down to pray. As I started praying, indeed, I immediately felt the burden lifted up and the discomfort of my heart soothed.

There is so much in life that is out of our control and may leave us feeling helpless and hurt. What can you do? Kneel down and pray. It's amazing that we have this loving God that can solve all our minor problems.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Now I can comfort you, readers, with this testimony. =) May all glory be to God.

[Life] What I Got in the Mail Today

Oddly, there were more letters addressed to me than anyone else in my family. So, 2 items received are notable.

1. From Cambridge Who's Who
 These people asked me to be part of a directory. Here are scans of the letter and application.
So, I looked this up online and apparently, it's a scam. 
Source: Article by Ryan Kopf
Remember, don't commit to anything you've never heard of. Look it up online. Someone else must've been through this before.

2. From National Foundation for Cancer Research
So, they sent me a bunch of blank birthday cards with matching envelopes, assuming I will donate money to them. However, being the unemployed person I am, I don't have money to donate to them. Even if I did, I'm too skeptical of these things since money rarely goes to where the philanthropist intends it to go. Thanks for the cards though; they will be put to good use.

[Healthcare] "The Hot Spotters" by Atul Gawande

"Can we lower medical costs by giving the neediest patients better care?"

In places like Camden and Atlantic City, they're changing the execution of health care. Doctors like Jeffrey Brenner (Camden) and Rushika Fernandopulle (AC) open clinics that focus on high-cost patients due to complicated chronic illnesses worsened by patient noncompliance ("hot spots"). Their clinics are stationed in low income areas and emphasize on high-touch, more personal care. Another unique thing they did was to hire social workers, hired from retail and service, not a healthcare background, called "health coaches" to stay in contact with patients through phone, email and visits.

Source: The New Yorker

It's a great read if you can spare some time. It is quite long, but it gives a new perspective to healthcare.

Some IT companies compile all the medical history of patients through insurance companies and they can analyze the health patterns. Analyzing this data, doctors can better evaluate their patients, especially when they visit various doctors. Of course, there'd be issues like HIPAA, but this information will improve (and potentially reduce the cost of) healthcare. Healthcare must focus on quality one patient at a time to reduce overall healthcare costs. We must move away from the attitude that "one man’s cost is another man’s income" and move toward one that rewards quality and keeps patients out of the hospitals.

Also, this shows that there seems to be a potential market in innovating products to improve patient compliance, especially in areas of low socio-economic classes. For example, patient education, alarms or devices to help enforce proper medication intake, off-loading of diabetic foot ulcers, refilling asthma inhalers, managing blood-sugar levels, understanding the on-set of a heart attack, etc.

Another area of innovation is continuous monitoring. There are plenty of medical devices with wireless technology that periodically sends information to a smart phone, computer or the doctor's office. These devices will become more common in the near future like implantable blood pressure monitors (Source: MIT Tech Review).

Or, you can listen to a talk by Dr. Gawande.
Source: NPR

And then the critics of the widespread use of this program, the Defeatists, Catastrophists and Triumphalists, and Dr. Gawande's responses.
Source: The New Yorker

[Career] No experience, no problem

This is an interesting idea you can mention during an interview if you are starting your career with little/no experience or entry-level.

Arkadi Kuhlmann, founder and CEO of ING Direct USA, has invented a whole new approach to retail banking. Over the past decade, as he has recruited thousands of employees to his organization, he has made it a point not to look to his competitors as a source of talent. "If you want to renew and re-energize an industry," he told me, "don't hire people from that industry. You've got to untrain them and then retrain them. I'd rather hire a jazz musician, a dancer, or a captain in the Israeli army. They can learn about banking. It's much harder for bankers to unlearn their bad habits."


"Hire for attitude, train for skill."

In more technical positions, having the skill will be necessary. The attitude will only strengthen the skills. My dad told me that, given you have all the skills, managers will hire depending if they like you or not (which he got from the book, 59 Seconds), so the attitude will make the difference.


[CAD] Rib approximator

Date completed: 06/15/2010
Software: SolidWorks

At that time, I just wanted to create something, so I found this rib approximator and spreader device used in thoracic surgery from an image at It is a very simple rack and pinion device.

I may also re-create the Bailey-Gibbon rib approximator, but the minimal feeling of accomplishment may deter me from doing it.
"There's no bad advice. All advice can be used in a good way."