Category Archives: Personal

What would you say ya do here?

I volunteered for the career day for the 11th and 12th graders at my son’s school and they asked me to explain what I do:

More specifically, they asked me to “please provide a brief job description and list the most important aspects of your current job. This will help our students understand what you do on a daily basis.”

Wanting to be completely honest with these kids who are about to try to pick a school, pick a major, figure out a career, I sent them this:


I lead a plucky team of data scientists, engineers, and analysts in finding undeclared nuclear R&D around the world. We built/bought/integrated the software, begged/borrowed/took the data, fused it together into something that can swing a billion data records at our most difficult questions, and trained people in how to wield the tools we’d built.

Disciplines involved:
– large-scale data analytics
– information modeling
– programming
– machine learning
– information visualization
– persuasion
– patience
– impatience
– not knowing when to quit

What would you say?

Breaking your collarbone in a country with socialized healthcare

As an American professional, I’m accustomed to HMOs, PPOs, group policies, co-pays, etc. I’ve now lived in Austria for over five years, and I’m learning my way around its brand of socialized medicine.

I personally opted for private insurance, rather than the public, but the way it works, I often get the same care, particularly when I go to a hospital.

So, two weeks ago, my son and I head home from his swim lesson, he on his scooter, I on my longboard. And I hit a wet patch of concrete I didn’t see and wipe out. Hard. I’m near blind with pain, but I manage to get up, reassure my son, and get him home. In retrospect, it would have made more sense to get to the hospital immediately, but, well, I didn’t.

Anyway, I get to the hospital and here’s how it goes (It’s a Saturday, by the way.):

12:30: Check in. They ask for my eCard, I explain I have private insurance and will be paying myself. Fine, they’ll send the bill to my house.

12:40: Wait.

13:15: See doctor, who examines me, asks where it hurts, and sends me to the Röntgen Ambulanz (in-house X-ray).

13:25: Wait.

13:30: get X-rayed

13:35: Wait.

13:40: Doctor confirms broken clavicle, prescribes Seractil (dexibuprofen), tells me to come back in a week. Nurse fits me for sling and swathe.

13:45: check out

The Seractil costs 7€ ($8) and is very effective on the pain.

The hospital bill comes to 106.80€ ($117). Total. My insurance company will reimburse me 80% of that, so I’ll only pay 21€.

I go back to the hospital a week later (Friday morning). I’m in and out in an hour. Treatment included another X-ray and feedback from the doctor.

Went back today and it was the same – in and out in an hour. It’s healing well, by the way.

So I’ve been to the hospital three times, seen doctors each time, gotten three x-rays, and checked in as a new patient once. Total time is less than I’ve typically spent in a single hospital visit in the US. The cost, even before I get reimbursed, is a fraction of American medical costs.

I’m telling an outpatient hospital story because the experience is the same whether I have private insurance or not. Private insurance makes more of a difference with in-patient or doctor care, but even then the difference is more about comfort – private rooms and whatnot. 

I wouldn’t stop for red lights

I’m posting this in a public place where my children will be able to see it forever.

If any of you are ever in the hospital, I’m not stopping for red lights.

I will be there as fast as humanly possible. I will drive, get on a plane, hail a cab (hansom, motorized, whatever), run, or whatever combination gets me to you. That’s true if you tell me I don’t need to come, if you tell me not to come, if I’m estranged from you, if your spouse doesn’t like me, if I have a big meeting the next day, if I’m in a big meeting right then, if I’m not a doctor and can’t fix anything, if your mother is already there, if I’m with your mother who is in a different hospital, if I’m sick and that means they won’t let me anywhere near you, if you’re in the hospital because you did something dumb, illegal, or embarrassing, if I was just there, if I was already planning on going in a few weeks, if I’m going to a wedding, if I’m in a wedding, if I’m at a funeral, if I don’t have any vacation time, if I have to borrow the money from a credit card or a friend. You get the idea.

I won’t wait for you to ask. If you are hurt, scared, or need help, I will be there.

Just sayin’



I’m married to a woman who leaves me in awe, I have a great job, I’m living in my favorite city in the world, and I’m raising two amazing little boys.

Charlie Sheen, eat your heart out.


Update 2012-04-04: I’m still winning, as you can see:

A boy on a playground swing, his dad helping.