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Posts Tagged ‘health

My wife and I have our own iPad minis. Recently she mentioned that hers did not seem to have a good battery life.

As Apple strangely only has the Battery Health feature in iOS but not in iPadOS, I used a third party tool, coconutBattery, to compare our devices. 

According to the application, my wife’s iPad battery manufacture date was 2020-09-28 and had these critical stats:

  • Cycle count: 183
  • Charge capacity: 86.9%

My iPad’s battery manufacture date was 2018-12-10 and had these critical stats:

  • Cycle count: 582
  • Charge capacity: 95.5%
iPad mini battery health according to coconutBattery.

Interpretation? My wife’s iPad mini is newer than mine, is not charged as often, and has a poorer battery health. 

My iPad mini has better battery health because I take care of it and charge it regularly. I do not let the battery discharge past 50% and I plug it in every night like clockwork. 

Lesson? Not only will your devices take care of you if you take care of them, they will last longer too. 

A week ago, I received an SMS from my health insurance provider. It was a reminder to pay my annual premium.

NTUC insurance SMS.

Yesterday I received snail mail saying the same, except with more words and paper.

What is the problem?

I had already paid my premium in October. I went to a branch to confirm this and the representative even made a Singaporean “double confirmed” declaration that my policy was in place and paid for. I even reminded them that I was not supposed to receive snail mail since the adoption of e-notifications. I reflected on all this earlier and linked this administrative nincompoopery to a lack of empathy.

How so? The provider was not able to see how blind policies and habits were affecting individual customers. A week ago, I mentioned how teachers also need to empathise with students — they need to remember what is was like to learn before trying to teach.

Today I focus on the “if” statement in the SMS: If you have made payment on 02 Nov 2020 or thereafter, please disregard this message.

If you had first bothered to check that I had paid, you would not have sent me the SMS or snail mail. If you did that first, you would not cause me distress or waste resources. If your systems actually communicated and synchronised with one another, you would not come across as incompetent. The onus is not on me to respond; it is on you to take due diligence.

Ditto for teachers and school leaders. Do not assume that students have not submitted work. Check the submission system first. Do not craft warning letters and spout policies and threats. Check with the students first.

Video source

The second episode of the YouTube Original series on artificial intelligence (AI) focused on how it might compensate for human disease or conditions .

One example was how speech recognition, live transcription, and machine learning helped a hearing-impaired scientist communicate. The AI was trained to recognise voice and transcribe his words on his phone screen.

Distinguishing usage of words like “there”, “their”, and “they’re” required machine learning of large datasets of words and sentences so that the AI learnt grammar and syntax. But while such an AI might recognise the way most people speak, the scientist had a strong accent and he had to retrain it to recognise the way he spoke.

Recognising different accents is one thing, recognising speech by individuals afflicted with Lou Gehrig’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is another. The nerve cells of people with ALS degenerate over time and this slurs their speech. Samples of speech from people with ALS combined with machine learning might allow them to communicate with others and remote control devices.

Another human condition is diabetic retinopathy — blindness brought on by diabetes. This problem is particularly acute in India because there are not enough eye doctors to screen patients. AI could be trained to read retinal scans to detect early cases of this condition. To do this, doctors grade initial scans on five levels and AI learns to recognise and grade new scans.

This episode took care not to paint only a rosy picture. AI needs to learn and it makes mistakes. The video illustrated this when Google engineers tested phone-based AI on the speech patterns of a person with ALS.

Some cynics might say that the YouTube video is an elaborate advertisement for Google’s growing prowess in AI. But I say that there is more than enough negativity about AI and much of it is based on fiction and ignorance. We need to look forward with responsible, helpful, and powerful possibilities.

This entry is part of my series of reflections on being an independent consultant. The previous parts were:

Today I share thoughts on a very obvious question and a less obvious issue.

Payment by GotCredit, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  GotCredit 

The elephant in the room of any negotiation is getting paid what you are worth. How much do you charge? How do you convince others that you are worth that amount?

If you have been gainfully employed elsewhere before, you might start with your previous monthly salary as a baseline. It is a matter of mathematics to work out a daily or hourly rate. However, it is also important to take into account everything that you need to do and how infrequently you might work.

As I mentioned earlier, you might have to be your own “publicist, letter writer, content negotiator, Gebiz administrator, instructional designer, content creator, self-trainer, speech writer, event facilitator, social networker, programme evaluator, financial officer, and debt collector”. These are paid jobs too. Citing a rate for only the core work is not enough.

Being a consultant can also mean having lean spells in between work. These do not mean you are unproductive, but it does mean that you need to ride these out.

If the people you are negotiating with are not aware of these issues, you should have an open and logical conversation so they do not baulk at your fees. You should also listen to their concerns as they may have caps on what they can pay you.

If there is an elephant in the room, there is also a less obvious mouse.

Something I learnt early in my move to be an independent consultant was to look after my health. In full-time work, you can take medical leave and still draw a salary. If you fall ill as a consultant and are not available, you not only foot your own medical bills, you also do not get paid.

I took ill and was hospitalised right after I left gainful employment. I had an overseas engagement that I could not fulfil and this was not only damaging to my pocket but also to my reputation. The incident was a very valuable lesson that if I did not have my health, I could not have anything else.

This entry is the last in my second series of reflections on what I have learnt as a consultant. If I discover more that are worth sharing, I will add to the series in future.

Last week I read this MindShift article, How Schools Can Help Nurture Students’ Mental Health.

Depressed Boy by Tjook, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Tjook 

There was a list of good ideas.

  1. Having school-based mental care
  2. Offering mental health screening
  3. Bringing back physical exercise during the school day
  4. Starting the school day later so kids get enough sleep
  5. Providing mindfulness training
  6. Encouraging fun and limiting technology
  7. Taking happiness seriously

They are mostly good ideas.

It can be hard to do #6 because limiting technology is not encouraging fun. It is also limiting learning options. Most schools already limit meaningful technology use, so I would advocate more instead of less.

Focusing on happiness is also unrealistic since all of us have to do things that make us unhappy every now and then.

Happiness might be said to comprise of fleeting moments. This might be why international polls on the happiest students, happiest people, or happiest nations do not provide consistent or reliable results.

Well-being, on the other hand, is a longer term pursuit. The book I tweeted about, The Purpose Economy, mentioned how parenting was a tough job that was fraught with pain and unhappiness at times. But any good parent with well-adjusted kids does not regret it. The well-being of their children and of themselves is what matters ultimately.

In a more stressful world I am all for looking out for kids’ health. But that does not mean that we should take measures blindly.

I rarely share personal aspects of my life in this blog because I use this platform only to reveal thoughts I have about schooling, education, technology, and change.

However, my health has been poor over the last twelve days and I am opting to share some limited information about my condition.

I was first diagnosed with a kidney stone last Tuesday. I had thought the pain travelling and then going away was a sign that I had passed the kidney stone naturally.

The pain had gone away, but an ultrasound scan this Friday with a urologist revealed that I might not be out of the woods yet. A CT scan tomorrow should shed more light on the situation.

Then I started feeling a terrible pain in the middle toe of my left foot on Friday. I have not been able to walk unassisted and even then I hobble along.

While the foot is far away from the kidneys, I suspect that I have gout which is a buildup of uric acid crystals in joints. That is the link.

Like many things in life, the links between seemingly unrelated things are not usually obvious. But if you look for them, you will find them.

I recall playing a childhood game where we would cock a pretend gun to someone’s head and ask, “Your money or your life?”

That was just a game. I had to ask myself that question yesterday because I had to decide between taking a well-paying consultancy gig or taking care of my health.

As chipper as I have tried to be about the last week since being diagnosed with a kidney stone, I have been in considerable pain. While I am better now, I still cannot stand up straight or walk properly without punishing myself.

I was ready to bite the bullet and do a consulting gig today which required a quick trip overseas. Just the thought of all the months of planning, preparation, and effort was enough to push me to go. But deep down I knew that I was being stupid.

When I had an office, one of my walls was covered with a spiral of my son’s photos to remind me why I did what I did. The photo above is one that I took in 2010.

The photos reminded me to do what I can (and even push myself to do what I think I cannot) to ensure my son has the education that he deserves, not just the schooling he is provided. To do that, I must change the mindsets and behaviours of teachers and educators of all kinds and at all levels.

That mission has not changed. But now that I am at home more, I have a more immediate mission of being there for my family. So the question of money or life was easy to answer. I am glad I chose life.


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