Biology: September 2007 Archives


September 16, 2007

This article in Science reports on the lack of improvement in cancer treatments for Adolescents and Young Adults (AYAs). Here's the depressing figure from the article, showing the situation from 1975 to 1999:

It's not really clear what the issue is. The dominant theory seems to be that pediatric cancers and adult cancers are fundamentally different and that AYA tumors mix them and so adult treatment, at least, doesn't work. It's unclear if pediatric treatment will work better, but the specialists seem skeptical.

Also, note the negative progress in the 30-35 cohort. I wonder if that's real or just noise.


September 3, 2007

The NY School system has just fired a carpenter for submitting false time information. The evidence is that his cell phone has GPS tracking and that the locations don't match where he claimed to be:
August 31, 2007 -- Schools Chancellor Joel Klein yesterday fired a veteran worker whose movements were tracked for five months through the GPS device in his cellphone, leading to charges that he was repeatedly cutting out early.

"This individual was getting paid for not working," said schools spokeswoman Margie Feinberg, explaining Klein's decision to accept an administrative law judge's recommendation to ax John Halpin, a longtime supervisor of carpenters.

Halpin had worked in the school system for 21 years and was conscientious enough to show up as much as two hours early for his 8 a.m.-to-3:30 p.m. shift.

He said he was never told that the cellphone he was given in 2005 could be used to monitor his every move and questioned the accuracy of the data it produced.

But neither argument swayed administrative law Judge Tynia Richard, who found Halpin guilty of submitting false time records when he left early on numerous occasions between March and August 2006.

She issued a decision saying the Department of Education was under no obligation "to notify its employees of all the methods it may possibly use to uncover their misconduct."

I generally don't think much of the Theory X management style of rigorously tracking what employees do. Certainly I wouldn't want to work that way. But even if that is the kind of shop you want to run, it's not clear to me that what you want to track people by is their cell phone. Presumably a lot of the reason you give your employees cell phones is so you can reach them. If the phone is also being used to track them, then they certainly have a lot less incentive to make sure that they have it on them at all times.

From a security guy perspective, it's also worth nothing that this technique is fairly easy to cheat. The tracking system works based on where the handset is, so you just need to get a second handset and then arrange for your phone to transfer calls to and from that handset. Probably, it's as simple as turning on call forwarding on your employer provided line. That certainly could be detected but I doubt the providers currently check for it. There are also a number of more sophisticated and harder to detect techniques.