Saturday, June 30, 2007

Buying Time

No one can afford all the medical care they might need. Not even Bill Gates. That's because a lot of stuff still needs to be discovered, and his billions would not suffice.

He can afford more than the rest of us, in this as in other things.

Billionaires routinely die of incurable diseases. They do die later than the rest of us, since they can basically pay for several doctors to sit by their bedside full time, which no insurance policy is ever going to cover.

So that old Kansas song, Dust in the Wind, was wrong when it said: "all your money won't another minute buy".

What really drives health progress, economically, is not billionaire's bucks. The mass market provides much bigger incentives than Bill Gates can.

The bad thing is that governments keep intruding on this helpful mass market.

Which is why Andrew Sullivan's warning seems timely.
He goes into some detail with lots of stats about Europe's decline in the Rx research biz. "America is the last refuge for pharmaceutical innovation. And the left wants to kill that off."

Why would we want to cut off the legs
Of a goose that lays curative eggs?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Where Is That Border Exactly?

We built a little border fence
Down in Arizona
But some of where we built the fence
Is land we do not owna.

Diaper Drama

Lisa Nowak's lawyer now insists that the disgraced astronaut never wore a diaper on her long drive to confront her lover.
"It jeopardizes our ability to have a fair trial when the accused is the butt of jokes," Lykkebak said.
The "butt" of jokes?

Is this guy really a lawyer? Or is he Jay Leno in disguise?

Better counsel she needs to find.
As for this one, leave him... behind.

Duds on Wheels

So that's 2 unexploded car bombs in London. These particular bad guys must be technically challenged.

Let me say, for starters,
That's how I like my martyrs -
Technically inept.

I hope they'll soon be swept
Into a Scotland Yard cell
So they can break down and tell
Where all their friends live, as well.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Worrying Over Weekend Warriors

For years I've read articles that advise exercising throughout the week - particularly painting the dangers of being a "weekend warrior" who slacks off 5 days and then goes gung-ho on the 2 days off.

Apparently these guys were terribly vulnerable to injury.

But I had often followed the "weekend warrior" pattern - especially when my weekdays got busy. And I didn't seem to suffer any ill-effects. I wondered what made me different.

Then someone tried to get some hard numbers, and came up short:
Given all the anecdotal reports about the weekend-warrior phenomenon, “we were surprised that the prevalence was low,” says study author Judy Kruger, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Even in the article they warn against "deconditioning" during the week. But has anyone done a study to prove that a normal workweek truly runs down your fitness? I'm skeptical. It's not like bed rest. It's work!

Where are the weekend warriors,
Weakened by 5 days off,
Traipsing office corridors
With grim tubercular coughs?

What if those warnings were crazy?
What if it's just not true?
What if slacking for 5 days
Isn't so bad for you?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I'd like to see less
Of Michael Moore,
But to my distress,
I'm seeing him more
Than even Al Gore,
Which puts me close
To a lethal dose.

Taking a Shot

Suppose you wake up with a splitting headache, and you ask your wife to take you to the ER, and the ER folks say you have been shot in the head, and your wife chooses that moment to make herself scant. Yep, it happened in Florida.

The ER nurse said
"You've been shot in the head."
Then the wife fled.

Losing and Winning

You may remember I lost my watch at the Cutting Edge Half-Distance Triathlon on Sunday. It turns out I also lost my finisher's medal - probably when I went to wash off in the lake afterwards.

I wrote to Becca, one of the people running the race, asking if I could pay shipping and handling to get a replacement.

She wrote back:
Hey! I found your medal and your banana during the cleanup. I'll send the banana to you tomorrow!

LOL The medal will be on it's way in the morning! Forget the shipping just come back and see us again...and tell your friends!
Seriously, this was a professional but very friendly race.

They posted pics. Here's me enjoying the bicycle ride. Here's me stunned to be done.

When I finished, I looked like hell,
But they took my pic and rang a bell,
And I felt swell.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Our Helpful Relatives

Sharon Begley, in Newsweek, is going on about how scientists have discovered "selfless altruism" among chimps.

Selfless altruism... that's the bestest kind, of course. It was surely what August Comte had in mind when he coined the term.

Apparently there is also "selfish altruism," where you help somebody because they might help you back someday.

By the way, the chimps will only act with "selfless altruism" when they aren't "preoccupied with getting food for themselves."

When there's chimp food to be chomped,
They're not big fans of Comte.

Carjacked Tow Truck

A Chicago city tow truck driver got carjacked today. Downtown. He was in the process of towing a car when it happened.

The carjacker got arrested after crashing the truck into a fire hydrant.

Who would steal a city tow truck? They're kind of conspicuous.

I've thought up a scenario to explain this:

The truck starts to tow
A car belonging to Joe.

Joe blows his stack
And gets his car back

By stealing the truck
On which his car is stuck.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Watchless in Effingham

This morning, soon after I started swimming, I felt my watch come off my wrist in the murky lake water. I looked down and could see it tumbling downward. I reached for it, and touched it, but it tumbled, out of my grasp, toward lake bottom.

I was tempted to dive for it. But this was the start of a triathlon. Every second counted - even though I would no longer be able to count them. So I shrugged it off and kept swimming.

On the surprisingly hilly bike ride, I had a speedometer with a clock. No worries.

But on the run, in the heat, I was unsure of my plodding pace.

When I turned the final corner of the run, I could see the finish line clock: 6:40.

6:40 had been my best time ever at this distance. In 2000.

I cranked up my speed and made it to the finish line before the clock ticked over to the next minute.

It wasn't a good competitive time. Out of 130 people, I was 118th.

But tying my younger self
Is top shelf.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Not In My Back Yard

I saw in passing that China is now pumping more carbon dioxide into the air than we are. For some time, it has been reported that Chinese air pollution floats over the Pacific to reach our west coast.

I suspect that all our clean-air laws have helped move manufacturing to countries that are willing to endure smokestacks for the sake of economic gain.

Have we simply outsourced dirty air
To over there?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Male Volunteers Disappear

Glenn Reynolds sez:
ATLAS IS SHRUGGING. "Perhaps men are merely acting rationally. They’ve assessed the risk of volunteering to work with children, and want no part of it."
I've worked with children - I spent some years coaching summer soccer - and I found it to be rewarding work. But the AYSO people did tell us to avoid being alone with a child.

After all, who wants to be up on "inappropriate touching" charges? Even when such charges are false, they're hard to live down.

As a matter of fact, there's an old high school teacher of mine, James Connelly, now in his 70's, who finds himself in exactly such a situation. Even though the charges were unfounded, St. Ignatius refuses to hire him back unless "he agreed not to be alone with students while at the school, to tutor students only in public areas and not to talk about the case."

A lot of my fellow alumni fault the school, but I fault the legal environment.

Once accusations are sounded,
Even though proven unfounded,
The innocent victim is hounded.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Free Market in Medicine Controversy

The other day I said something in favor of the free market in medicine, which generated criticism from radiantsun's father.

He took me to be defending the various anti-competitive legal features of our current medical system. But, no. And again, no. In a contest between the medical establishment and freedom, there's no contest where I'm concerned.

As a timely example, there's a new trend where big pharmacy chains are staffing in-store clinics with nurse-practitioners who can look you over, run simple tests, and write prescriptions.

They're open nights and weekends, and cost less than doctors.

Some doctors are trying to do an intervention:
The Illinois State Medical Society is backing a bill that would impose tighter regulations on retail clinics. And the Illinois delegation of the American Medical Association has introduced two anti-clinic resolutions for the AMA to consider at its annual meeting in Chicago next week.
Of course, it's being done in the name of patient safety. Anti-competitive laws are routinely done up as safety laws. And I do expect that on average you would get higher quality care from a doc than from a nurse. But people have trouble even getting appointments on a timely basis from a lot of doctors, and people have trouble taking time off from work to see a doctor, so on average they may be more likely to actually get medical care from one of these clinics.

But, for me, patient safety shouldn't be a be-all and end-all. Patients should be allowed to make their own trade-offs between risk, cost, and level of care.

Some laws that are passed "to protect your health"
Stealthily manage to drain your wealth.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Congress at All Time Low

I don't mean the Congress is behaving at an all time low. I just mean their overall poll numbers are at an all time low - at least since Gallup started measuring.
Just 14% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress.
Here's what I don't get. Politicians are said to purposely take positions that are popular - in current polls. So how do they get so low?

Maybe the people are just in a grumbly mood,
Showing off some survey attitude.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Great Influenza

Just finished reading The Great Influenza by John M. Barry.

On page after page he documents how federal, state, and local governments made things worse as the killer flu of 1918 swept through the nation and around the world. Basically, the bureaucracies were slow to respond, and then spread overly cheery propaganda rather than useful but depressing information.

Meanwhile, a fairly small number of early medical scientists did what they could, mostly struggling against the government.

Of course, the author thinks the lesson is that the government needs to do a better job, to be ready for the next uber-flu.

Or maybe the government needs to get out of the way,
And let a free market in medicine save the day.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Not-So-Touching Story

Here's a creepy story about a school where touching is forbidden.

Fortunately, it's not zero-tolerance. So when a middle-schooler hugs his girlfriend, he's not instantly expelled. Just sent to the office.

Dr. Helen comments:
This no touch rule seems wrong in so many ways, I don't know where to begin. I used to think schools were becoming like prisons, but honestly, prisoners have more rights.
Class - for your next assignment,
Solitary confinement!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

No Licensing Requirement

Now and then I meet people who want to license parents. I don't even want to license doctors or lawyers.

So for all you unlicensed male parents out there, happy father's day.

Though sitcoms mock at Dad
Lots of kids are glad
To have somewhere to go
When Mom says no.

Painful Truths

There's an opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune today entitled "Cheers can't drown out painful truths." It's about the Duke-Nifong false-rape case. I did find the article painful to read.

It ended like this:
The myth of the "false report" of rape must be replaced by this truth: It is underreporting, not false reporting, that poses the greatest risk to our families and our communities.
I think the author is avoiding a painful truth: Not all rape charges are true. And wrongful prosecutions of individuals, in disregard of facts, cannot be justified by appeals to family and community.

Otherwise we'll start inching
Back to the way of lynching.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bloody Palestine

The 2 big Palestinian factions are shooting each other up. I can't figure out what to call the conflict.

The place is splattered with gore.
The situation is urgent.
Is it truly a civil war?
Or just dueling insurgents?

Sailors of the Sky

They've fixed the Russian computers on the Space Station! I was starting to get worried.

By the way, how come we still can't agree on whether space travelers are Cosmonauts or Astronauts? The cold war lives on in terminology disagreements.

What if someone else - like the Euros - finally succeed in launching people into space? Will they go with Cosmo or Astro? Or will they feel entitled to coin yet another word ending in -naut?

Although we diverge on the start,
We agree on the ending part.

So perhaps we really ought
To just cut it down to "Naut".

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Intimate Relations

Fumarase deficiency is a rare, and nasty, genetic disorder.

Arizona has half of the known cases in the world.

That's because they've got a bunch of polygamists straddling the border with Utah, and they're inbreeding.

Recessive traits
Can be dire straits
When you're buzzin'
Dozens of cousins.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Evolutionary Love

They're showing the notes
Charles Darwin wrote
While trying to decide
Whether to take a bride.

He weighs up the pluses and minuses of marriage.

The funniest one on the plus side: "Object to be beloved and played with -- better than a dog, anyhow."

He did get married, and then -
He needed no instruction.
They had lots of children - ten!
Thus achieving reproduction.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

No Warning Label

Psychotherapy can be dangerous to your mental health! So saith Newsweek.

Not in general, from the sound of it. Just certain kinds. And only if you listen.

If you start to think
That maybe your shrink
Is making you nuts,
Then have the guts
To take a walk
Away from their talk.

Stroke, Stroke, Breathe

I went for a swim in the Lake today. Very refreshing. I swam out to a certain buoy, and returned.

I covered about .8 miles, judging from this very cool USATF "map your own route" site. It's designed for runners, but it let me draw a path right across the water on a satellite-map hybrid view.

It was a little on the cold side, and there were some waves to contend with. But it was a lot more fun than swimming laps.

Swimming laps
Is like taking a nap
On a long black line.

Open water enlivens the mind.

Unfinished Finale

If a bada-bing conclusion
Is what you sadly lack,
Here's a new solution:
Make the screen go black.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Passport Surprise

So they made a new rule that Americans flying to Mexico or Canada or the Caribbean needed passports.

And then the passport issuers were surprised when... they were flooded with passport applications!

I love this quote:

What we did not anticipate adequately enough was the American citizens' willingness and desire to comply with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative in the timeframe that they did...

The new rules haven't been axed
But for now they're slightly relaxed.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hate Crimes

The Trib ran a good article today by Howard Witt on the current Knoxville hate crime controversy.

Basically, a young couple in Knoxville was "carjacked, kidnapped, raped, and finally murdered during an ordeal of unimaginable terror in January."

The victims were white. The four people charged with the crime are black.

Some are complaining that:

A) It would have been a big national news story if the races in the case had been reversed.

B) It should be prosecuted as a hate crime.

As for point A, I think that's true. The press likes white-on-black violent crime stories. That's partly because they fit the overarching narrative of black victimization, and partly because such stories are relatively rare:
In 2005, there were more than 645,000 victims of cross-racial violent crimes between blacks and whites in the U.S. In 90 percent of those crimes, black offenders attacked white victims.
Please note that this addresses violent crime only. I bet that if you did a study of cross-racial business fraud, you might find some strikingly different numbers. Also, it's hard to capture accurate cross-racial police brutality statistics, but I bet that runs the other way too.

As for point B, I think this sort of crime had to involve inner rage of some sort. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the killers bore some animus toward white people. But it would be hard to prove as the key motivation, which is one of the troubles with hate crime laws in the first place.

Why does someone decide to shatter
Another person's life one day?
For the victims it doesn't matter.
They're destroyed either way.

Friday, June 08, 2007

I Love Paris in the Spring Time

Paris Hilton that is. It's technically still Spring, you know.

What a story. Into the clink, out of the clink, and then back in.

Today's hearing featured an angry judge, tearful parents, and Paris melting down and yelling "Mom!"

Still no word on the nature of the illness that temporarily sprung her out of the lock-up.

When your body's ailing,
And you've got no time for jailing.
Just have your Mom arrange
A teeny weeny change
From that iron-bar assignment
To a bit of home confinement.

Vacation Day

Today at work I kept telling people it was a "vacation day."

Sometimes I told them I was glad to see them working on a vacation day.

Sometimes I kept asking them why they were still at work.

I'm not sure where this idea came from, but we had fun with it.

In fact I was so busy
I was almost feeling dizzy.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Horseman, Pass By

A good friend of mine, about my age, is a cardiac patient.

A couple of weeks ago, he had no such diagnosis. But he had this stinging sensation in his chest. After an intense weight workout.

Eventually he went to the ER. They were all over him like flies on honey. That's how they treat you when you show up with chest pain in a good ER nowadays.

At first they couldn't find anything. Then they put him on the treadmill for a stress test.

Anyway, now he's got some stents in his coronary arteries, and he's on a bunch of meds. He's still pretty shaken up about it.

It has to be disconcerting
To go from mysterious hurting
To learning you're being saved
From an early grave.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hitchhikers Without Thumbs?

Penguins live down by the south pole.

But every now and then, one is seen up by the north pole.

How does this happen? They can't fly. You might think they swim the distance? But apparently they don't care for warm water.

So scientists think they arrive as hitchhikers.

Whether as pets, or stowaways,
They hop a boat and ride for days,
Until at the opposite pole they arrive
And into the freezing water they dive.


Took a yoga class tonight.

As with Pilates, a lot of it is fine, except for a lot of the parts where I have to stretch my legs.

Of course, that means it's actually good for me to do this. But, still.

Running and biking
Are much to my liking.
But I find some flexing

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Assault On Reason

Did Al Gore
Generate all this prose galore?

Or was the author mostly

As for reason, I vote yes.
But I'd still like to hear from Al Gore less.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Feline Menace

Apparently cats kill hundreds of millions of birds a year, at least according to the side bar here.

One solution: a special purple bib for kitties. The bib is supposed to stop the cat from catching birds.

Color me skeptical. I'm worried it will work out like this:

While crunching on a pigeon rib,
The kitty said, "Hey, thanks for the bib!"

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Terrorists of the Caribbean

Here I was, worried about Middle Eastern terrorists, but it turns out that now I have to worry about Caribbean terrorists too.

I never did wanna
Go to Guyana.

But are things that bad
In Trinidad?

Limited Funds

The drumbeats for "Health Care Reform" go on and on.

One thing you hear is slogans like: "Nobody should go without health care because they can't afford it." Preferably accompanied by a photogenic victim.

But as soon as you have the government pay for everything, you will hear that other slogan: "Hard choices about health care need to be made since government funds are limited."

Either way, someone's not getting treated. But who that person is, and how that person gets picked, changes.

I believe the new government rationing committee will have a lot of rules...

Photogenic people shall be treated
With publicity and speed,
And politicians' cousins shall be greeted
As people with urgent needs.

Friday, June 01, 2007

TB Show

So the drug-resistant TB guy has been quarantined in Denver.

But now we learn that his father-in-law works for the Center for Disease Control. And he works on drug-resistant TB.


So far they say that no one knows
How the young guy got exposed.
But I've watched lots of TV shows...

On TV the old man would have brought home work
And stress would have made him go berserk
And infect the younger man just for being a jerk.