mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

All of Us and the Big Data Future of Medicine

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced the All of Us research program:

The All of Us Research Program is a historic effort to gather data from one million or more people living in the United States to accelerate research and improve health. By taking into account individual differences in lifestyle, environment, and biology, researchers will uncover paths toward delivering precision medicine.

This is cool. In my eyes, our medical system is still very reactive: we address things after they’ve occured. Yes, we have our annual checkups. Yes, we start screening for cancer if we have a family history. Yes, we have things we can measure like cholesterol and blood sugar that serve as indicators for future risk of certain diseases.

But we could be digging in and doing better to make medicine more reliably predictive so we can catch things years before we are catching them today. As someone in the video promoting the program says, “Prevention is the key to longevity.” All of Us is a great step in that direction. By collecting a large amount of data for a large cohort we’re building a strong foundation of knowledge in the field of medicine.

But what does the future look like? There are two big technologies that I believe will radically transform medicine:

  1. Implantable biosensors can be implanted at birth and continuously monitor our vitals collecting a vast amount of data. Your cohort for medical research could balloon without too much processing overhead as these devices could send data over the Internet. The quality, accuracy, reliability, and frequency of data also grows with implanted biosensors.
  2. Machine learning can sift through this trove of data across a large population to identify precusors and indicators of disease and illness that we are currently unaware of. AI already does an amazing job of [diagnosing heart disease and lung cancer] accurately.

Perhaps there are subtle precursors to heart attacks that would give us notice hours or maybe even days in advance? The possibilities are endless.

This is taking a very rosy and optimistic outlook on the future of AI and medicine in the larger scope of how things currently work. In the (dysfunctional) United States health care system there would also be opportunities abound for profit-hungry companies to abuse this increased awareness of our health. That said, the more we know the more we can do to stay healthy to enjoy a fruitful life.

Manager Reads - Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

I just wrapped up my first power-up-managerial-skills book: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip and Dan Heath.

Who recommended the book? This book was recommended by someone on the Twitch Manager Book Club. A gaggle of managers come together and talk about a book: what they liked, what they found most helpful, what surprised them, etc. Then we close by getting someone to recommend another book. It’s a great motivator to power through books and great for discovering new books to read.

Judge the book by its cover, font, page quality? Decisive is a sturdy hardcover book with a corrosive green book jacket that features a magic 8-ball. It’s a clever play for a book about making decisions. Going jacketless gives you a simple, black matte cover with shiny corrosive green text on the spine. I went jacketless. The paper inside the book is thick, I loved it. The font choice is nice and there is a comfortable amount of leading. All in all, great first impression.

Thoughts on the book and the big take-aways? Decisive is a well-written, entertaining, memorable, and informative read. The book revolves around the WRAP process which helps us navigate the complexities of decision making.

  • Widen your options
  • Reality-test your assumptions
  • Attain distance before deciding
  • Prepare to be wrong

For each of these steps the book covers a few strategies that can help you. For example, when preparing to be wrong, it’s helpful to set a tripwire to help us realize we have a decision to make; oftentimes on autopilot we totally miss the opportunity to pivot when things aren’t going well.

While this is helpful, the real magic of the book is in the many real-world anecdotes that illustrate how these strategies were (or were not) used in the past to achieve success (or failure). For example, Kodak didn’t take the growing threat of digital photography seriously enough because it did not set a tripwire to help them realize they had an important decision to make. The anecdotes are interesting and ground the strategies as realistic and valuable.

Ultimately the book provides pithy strategies and advice which gives me confidence I will remember them and hopefully be able to identify and leverage them when the time comes.

Notes in Evernote? This book has a great feature I wish more books in this genre did: one-pagers at the end of every chapter that captures the big takeways. My notes are mostly just a transcription of those with some quotes that really stuck out to me. Feel free to review my notes on 🐘.

Artisanal Collection of Donkey Kong Country Thoughts

Nintendo continued the laying to rest of the Wii U this week by porting Donkey Kong Country (DKC) Tropical Freeze to the Switch. Jumping into this game brought back a myriad of random thoughts, much like a good artisanal cheese board provides a bevy of cheesy bites. Let’s chew into them!

The old me: fans of my blog might recall I wasn’t a huge fan of Tropical Freeze on the Wii U. I still took the dive for the game on the Switch because four years and a different console might bring a new perspective to the game. More importantly, I want to encourage Nintendo to continue bringing Wii U games to the Switch. 🤞 for Xenoblade Chronicles X and Tokyo Mirage Sessions FE!

Diddy Kong Konformity

Throwback: I remember in the original SNES DKC games when you beat a stage it would put the face of the Kong you beat the stage with on the world map over that stage. I’m a fan of tidiness so I always beat the stage with the same Kong so my world map looked consistent… 😑

The me of yesterday is not the me of today: Picking up Tropical Freeze now, I’m liking it more. My complaints a few years ago about the controls not feeling tight I now can more precisely attribute to the Grand Theft Auto 3 to 4 effect. Between these two GTA entries they made driving cars much more realistic which made driving around harder and less fun in my eyes. In Tropical Freeze, Donkey Kong handles like the 200+ pound ape he is: there is just enough inertia to throw me off. That said, I’m powering through this time!

Another throwback: My mom got me the original DKC and DKC 2. But when it came to Donkey Kong Country 3 I first played it after visiting the video rental store with my cousin Joe. This store also rented video games so once I saw DKC3, I quickly picked it up. With only 24 hours (the age of late fees was truly a dark time), I tried powering through the game. I wasn’t able to finish, but a few months down the road my mom came through again! With unlimited time now, I was able to beat - Banana Bird Queen beat - the game!

The DKC GOAT

My factual opinion: DKC 2 Diddy’s Kong Quest is the best game of the original trilogy. Don’t @ me. The pirate theme is well-executed, the music is amazing, and the Lost World area mechanic is great for encouraging collection of all the Kremkoins and features some truly punishing stages. This is all in spite of that ridiculously annoying stage with Squawk and the wind!

My thoughts on the future: Will I keep playing Tropical Freeze? Yes. I’m adjusting to my inertia-inspired issues. The game is still pretty challenging and (somewhat) rage-inducing so I usually only get through two to three stages per sitting before throwing in the towel. That said, why rush a good thing?

Truly cruel and unusual punishment

One last throwback: In the second world of the original DKC, Monkey Mines, I got super stuck as a budding video gamer. The second stage - Mine Cart Carnage - punishes the weak. Here’s a great article that describes the sadistic level. Ironically enough the stage could be skipped but in the Land Before Internet I was wholly unaware of this silver bullet for Mine Cart Carnage!

If you’re reading this Nintendo: I’d be over the moon if the Switch got an SNES Virtual Console. But if you want to do something a little less ambitious you could give us Donkey Kong Country Trilogy HD Remastered. 🙏

And that’s a wrap on our artisanal collection of Tropical Freeze inspired thoughts. 🍌

Reading Time! Engineering Manager

When I first started working as an engineer I relied a lot on pattern-matching (find solved problems similar to mine and adapt the solution to fit my requirements) and leaning on peers for direction, advice, and feedback. Effectively, I winged it and grew along the way with a good support system to keep me in line and developing.

That’s not a bad way to go as an engineer but as I transition into engineering management, I find the wing it and learn along the way strategy is insufficient. Why? My decisions and interactions with my team can have big impacts starting now. Those challenges requiring deliberation and, more importantly, my team deserve the best I can bring to the table.

So I’ll study! There is a ton of literature on engineering management that focus on all facets of the job. Lucky for me between my colleagues, my manager, and the Twitch Manager Book Club I’ve got a fount of recommendations to dive into. I’m hoping reading will help me have more aha moments that don’t require getting burned!

For everything I read I plan to:

  • Shout out who recommended the book!
  • Judge the book by its cover, font selection, paper quality… details matter!
  • My thoughts on the book and the big take-aways!
  • My notes (in Evernote of course) on the book!

First up will be the current Twitch Manager Book Club book: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. See you in a few days!

Setting Up HTTPS for Custom Domain GitHub Pages

Picking Jekyll running on GitHub Pages for this blog five years ago has been one of the better (lucky) technical decisions I made as both products continue to get tender love and care. This week, GitHub delivered another awesome feature: HTTPS on GitHub Pages for sites with custom domains. Setting this up gets you the coveted 🔒Secure stamp next to your URL.

HTTPS is awesome and gives readers confidence that no nefarious actor is intercepting my site and modifying its contents to include falsehoods like “Xcode is a great development tool that empowers developers to output amazing work” or “Siri is a digital assistant.” We absolutely cannot risk falsehoods like this being transmitted on this blog.

Setting up HTTPS on GitHub pages is straightforward but it took a small amount of digging to get the www subdomain working (so you can visit either mark.gg or www.mark.gg and still be 🔒Secure). I configure my domain via Cloudflare because it has a great interface and propagates my DNS changes compared to changing them via a domain registrar.

You’ll want your DNS settings to look like:

Type Name Value
A mark.gg 185.199.108.153
A mark.gg 185.199.109.153
A mark.gg 185.199.110.153
A mark.gg 185.199.111.153
CNAME www markcerqueira.github.io

Once you’ve done this you can go to the GitHub Pages section of your repository to wrap up the process.

If you can’t click the Enforce HTTPS checkbox (orange box) you can fix this by clearing your custom domain in the Custom domain section (red box), saving, and then setting it again. This resets your CNAME file and kicks off something on GitHub’s end that allows you to check Enforce HTTPS. After checking the box give it some time to generate the certificate and you’ll be well on your way to 🔒Secure!

<🔒Secure> Xcode sucks! <\🔒Secure>