Category Archives: Life

Preventable Death. From Grilled Cheese.

If you are told a child in your care has a severe food allergy, believe them. Don’t kill a three-year-old with a grilled cheese sandwich.

According to his parents, staff at the preschool knew about his severe dairy allergy, but an adult gave him the cheese sandwich anyway. He ate it, went into anaphylactic shock, and died in the emergency room. No word on whether they gave him epinephrine. (New York law allows schools to stock it, but doesn’t require them to.) Update: Apparently the school called his mother instead of 911. Want to bet paramedics could have helped?

“We will get to the bottom of what happened here…” says a spokesman for NYC’s health department, “and whether the facility could have done something differently to prevent this tragedy.” Well, yeah: Don’t give kids food that you know they’re severely allergic to!

Children with severe allergies know to avoid certain foods, but they need help to do it:

  • It takes time to learn how to avoid all forms of food you’re allergic to. I was seventeen before I learned that cross-hatches meant peanut butter cookies, because we’d never had them in the house. (Incidentally: that was the first time I actually used an Epi-Pen.)
  • Some foods have substitutes that look and taste similar enough that you could take a bite — and it only takes one bite — before discovering it’s the real thing. Sunflower seed butter for peanut butter. Daiya for cheese (and yes, you can make a grilled Daiya sandwich).
  • Ingredients can be hidden. There are an awful lot of pasta sauces that look like standard tomato sauce with herbs that also have cheese in them.
  • Kids that young have no choice but to trust the adults taking care of them. There’s a power difference. If you trust someone, you’re less likely to double-check them. And when you’re not sure? Not all kids can push back against an insistent adult, especially one they’re accustomed to depending on. (Keep that issue of power imbalance in mind when you read other stories in the news today, too.)
  • Preschoolers aren’t exactly known for their impulse control, so even the ones who have the courage to self-advocate won’t always stop to check before taking that first bite.

Maybe it was someone new who didn’t know yet. Maybe it was someone who didn’t take it seriously. Maybe there was a mix-up and he was supposed to get something else, but they handed him the cheese sandwich by mistake. All of those could have been prevented.

Yes, mistakes happen. Even fatal ones. But they happen a lot less often when you listen to people who are facing the danger, believe them, and take action to follow through on it.

1 in 13 children has a food allergy. Even if your child doesn’t, they have friends who do.

Don’t let them down.

Update on the case from Allergic Living (Nov 16):

The incident is still under investigation. It’s not even clear at this point whether the specific person who gave him the sandwich was aware of the allergy (though they certainly should have been), or whether they gave him epinephrine, though it is clear that:

  • The school was aware of his allergy
  • The school didn’t call 911, they called his mother instead.

The school has been closed pending the investigation results, and new directives have been issued that childcare staff will call 911 in the event of a medical emergency.

Not impressed with the Google Assistant

I’ve had the “Google Assistant” on my phone for a few weeks now. Since I don’t use the always-on voice activation, this means it’s pushing extra notifications based on what it thinks I want/can use. Fortunately it doesn’t do audio alerts, so it’s a lot less intrusive than it could be. I figured I’d give it a try and see if it turned out to be useful (or creepy).

The alerts I’ve gotten fall into the following categories:

  • Estimated commute time based on current traffic. This would be more useful if it wasn’t based on the freeway, which I never use to get to or from work because it’s such a pain. Though on a trip to San Francisco, it popped up transit delays, which would have been helpful if I’d actually been going anywhere beyond walking distance that day.
  • Weather changes. This is kind of useful, but I have a widget to show the same info.
  • Hours and offers for stores I have just left. At least three times, I’ve walked around a grocery store or Target for 30-40 minutes, consulting my shopping list on my phone all the way, and it has popped up with info when I load up the car. What’s the point of that?
  • Potentially useful information for someplace nearby, but that I’m not going to. I work near an airport, and it’s repeatedly sent me the terminal layout. (The one time I actually went to the airport, I was already on a shuttle to the remote terminal — which isn’t on that map, incidentally — before it sent me that one. Better than the return trip, though, when it sent me a map after I’d boarded the plane.) Once it tried to help me with a mall restaurant while I was at a different restaurant. Another time it sent me info about a hotel I had driven past.
  • News articles about Trump. As if they’re hard to find. No further info in the notice, just “There is a new article about President Trump.” (Or something along those lines — I don’t recall the exact phrasing.)
  • Premiere dates for two TV shows that I watch. This one impressed me, since it correctly picked out two of three returning shows that I watch, and has not tried to plug anything else. It makes me wonder what it’s mined to figure that out, but I’m impressed it caught the nuance of which two DC/CW shows I watch. (OK, Flash is easy, but it somehow figured out that I was interested in Supergirl but not Arrow or Legends of Tomorrow.)

At this point, I think the experiment has run its course. The only category that’s been consistently useful is the TV premiere schedule… and that only comes up a couple of times a year.

Ordering Photo Prints: Not Quite Interoperable

On the plus side: I was able to order photo prints while hundreds of miles from home on a business trip, and my wife was able to pick them up from the store the next day, which is pretty cool.

On the minus side: It was a heck of a lot harder than it should be by now.

  1. I went through Google Photos on my tablet and selected a bunch of photos by adding them to an album.
  2. I tried to upload them to the CVS photo website, but Chrome can’t upload photos from a Google Photos Album. This is on Google.
  3. I tried to install the CVS app, but it wasn’t compatible with my tablet. Not sure who to blame for this one.
  4. I installed the CVS app on my phone and tried to upload the photos from there, only to find that it had fewer options for uploading than the website.
  5. I got onto a laptop, downloaded a ZIP of the entire album, and uploaded it to the CVS website…only to discover during checkout that CVS is no longer offering same-day pickup at any locations near home — even though they’re plugging it all over the website and through the photo ordering process. So basically they’re lying about it. (Or maybe all the photo printers in a 10-mile radius broke down simultaneously. I mean, it could happen.)
  6. I finally set up an account with Walgreen’s, noticed their website clearly uses the same software as CVS’s, but tried anyway. I uploaded the photos, placed the order, selected a local store, and even put in my wife’s name as an authorized person who wasn’t me to come pick them up. Available the next morning. Done. Took maybe 5 minutes.

But it was a freaking pain to get to that point.

A Minecraft Halloween

Homemade spider jockey costume (a composite Minecraft monster consisting of a skeleton archer riding a giant spider). Kid-sized, built by Katie (I assisted, mainly with painting, but the design, planning, and most of the construction was her).

Mostly cardboard, covered with paper to smooth it out and provide a painting surface. Heavy fabric and dowels to form the frame for the center of the spider body, with paracord to hold the legs on. For the skeleton: felt panels, some pinned to a black shirt, some to the suspenders. Which, incidentally, were made from old Comic-Con lanyards.

Smoke rises from Mt. Wilson

Smoke rises from Mt. Wilson above Los Angeles on Tuesday around noon. The wildfire has threatened the observatory and critical communications towers. Today it’s too hazy to see anything but the barest suggestion of the downtown skyline, much less the mountains behind it. Not that it looked quite this clear even on Tuesday – I ran the photo through auto white balance to make everything easier to see.

I’m reminded of the last time the mountaintop complex was threatened by fire, during the 2009 Station Fire… and the photos I scanned from a 1992 tour of the observatory, wondering if that had been my only chance to see it.