mm495: Family and politics

September 11, 2008
© Susy56 | Dreamstime.com

© Susy56 | Dreamstime.com

Once again, it’s nearly 9:00pm as I begin to figure out what to say tonight, pretty late for a guy whose alarm goes off at 5:10am, and who lived a full day’s worth already.

The pace and obligations at work are picking up, heading for a crunch. Admittedly, I’ve been coasting a bit, working best, I’ve found after 42 years and counting in the workforce, with do or die deadlines. Well, it’s that time.

Meanwhile, the home front is typically turbulent. Our L.A. daughter is finally (after more than two weeks) home from a hospitalization caused by her continuing battle with Crohn’s disease, a devastating intestinal condition that I have underlying guilt about since it seems to be inherited from my side of the family.

Our youngest, who himself was hospitalized the same day and released two days later, has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, for which, thankfully, there is effective pharmaceutical treatment; unlike, we’ve all been dismayed to learn, my daughter’s Crohn’s; very serious surgery is going to have to be her relief. And, guess what? MUDGElet No. 3’s bipolar disorder? Also from yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s side of the family tree. Oy, the guilt!

He is living here with us (unable as yet to support himself while he recovers from his breakdown), which is a disconcerting alteration in Mrs. MUDGE‘s and my reasonably comfortable empty nest routine, as well as a financial, and emotional burden.

And, speaking of routine, our middle son, and his wife, and our granddog, greet us every day around 6:00am, as their nearby condominium’s one and only bathroom is being rehabbed, and showers before work, for the humans — I do draw the line! — are necessary.

And my dear mother continues to battle her dread disease, acute myeloid leukemia; still living on her own at age 81, but lately causing her family increased anxiety after taking a fall last weekend. That black eye at the top of this post doesn’t do justice to hers.

So that’s why Faithful Reader has seen more than a few of our recycled posts over the past several weeks.

Not for lack of material, however, as the election circus goes into its final stage.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm494: Blast from the Past! No. 50 — Health care excuses

September 9, 2008
© Kandasamy M  | Dreamstime.com

© Kandasamy M | Dreamstime.com

A very long day today (the alarm went off at 3:10am!), but hey, recycling is IN, right?

We’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons. And, with nearly 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, the recycling process has an exceptionally rich vein to mine.

I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th[2]

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, originally posted November 11, 2007, and truer now than ever, titled “mm190: U. S. Health Care – Excuses, not facts.”

MUDGE’S Musings

Access to affordable health care. Five words. Easy to write. Rolls off the keyboard fluidly even. Simple phrase; political cesspool. Can universal access to affordable health care ever happen in the U.S.?

Paul Krugman, the economist whose columns appear in the Opinion section of the NYTimes, this week reminds us that the failings of our health care system are manifest: we spend more, but get less – fewer covered and lower life expectancy than in any other western economy.

Moreover, the usual suspects (our lifestyle) and the usual bugbears (socialized medicine!) are distortions and outright lies.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm480: Beat up

August 26, 2008
© Susy56 | Dreamstime.com

© Susy56 | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Sometimes, you just have to admit defeat.

Or, perhaps, you just need to take a breather.

Tonight is a night that calls out for a break.

No sooner does one of our children get out of a suburban Chicago hospital, than another is admitted to a suburban Los Angeles one. Serious and painful, but, thankfully, not life threatening.

But, it’s beating us up, all of these health issues, especially when they don’t allow us to nurse our own mental and physical aches and pains.

So it’s shell-shocked times here at Casa MUDGE.

But, we’ll answer the bell for the next round.

That’s what adults do.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm456: Blast from the Past! No. 38

August 2, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

So, back into the archives yet again.

I console myself by guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, originally posted October 17, 2007, and originally titled “mm172: Diabetes: Not so Simple, Simon! (And stay away from that pie!).”

MUDGE’S Musings

Continuing our medical mini-series, this story was among the NYTimes’ most emailed yesterday.

Type II, adult onset diabetes is the focus of the piece, delving in great detail into recent research that is raising more questions than answers.

It’s a lengthy article, but well written, and well worth your time.

MUDGE’S Musings

Continuing our medical mini-series, this story was among the NYTimes’ most emailed yesterday.

Type II, adult onset diabetes is the focus of the piece, delving in great detail into recent research that is raising more questions than answers.

It’s a lengthy article, but well written, and well worth your time.

nytimes

By AMANDA SCHAFFER

An explosion of new research is vastly changing scientists’ understanding of diabetes and giving new clues about how to attack it.

The fifth leading killer of Americans, with 73,000 deaths a year, diabetes is a disease in which the body’s failure to regulate glucose, or blood sugar, can lead to serious and even fatal complications. Until very recently, the regulation of glucose — how much sugar is present in a person’s blood, how much is taken up by cells for fuel, and how much is released from energy stores — was regarded as a conversation between a few key players: the pancreas, the liver, muscle and fat.

Now, however, the party is proving to be much louder and more complex than anyone had shown before.

So, the usual suspects, pancreas, liver, muscle and fat have been joined by new candidates: a hormone produced by bone, osteocalcin; inflammation in the immune system; the brain; and the gut.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

In Diabetes, a Complex of Causes – New York Times

Read the rest of this entry »


mm447: Blast from the Past! No. 36

July 24, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Well, today was that Thursday that actually began at 10:00pm last night, flowing seamlessly from Wednesday, and save for about two hours between the end of one meeting at 2am and the preparation for the next at 5:15am, sleep for yr (justifiably) humble svt has been as scarce as home buyers.

So, we’re on a reduced blogging schedule, with just enough energy to faithfully observe the Prime Directive: Thou Shalt Blog Daily.

As we’ve opined in the past (recently, actually) one of our favorite bloggers regardless of topic is Sandy Szwarc.

The first time we found her was last October. Enjoy!

lhc7601904[3]

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, originally posted October 8, 2007, and originally titled “mm165: Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox No. 13 — Take heart.”

MUDGE’S Musings

Welcome to one of the newest members of the Left-Handed Complement blogroll, Junkfood Science.

Sandy Szwarc seems to have the credentials, and she has a point of view.

Points of view are not lacking in the blogosphere (although credentials may be!), but I was attracted to hers immediately.

Anyone glancing at the rendition of Yr (Justifiably) Humble Svt that graces the top of the sidebar of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© can probably tell that one might charitably describe MUDGE as horizontally challenged.

Fat.

Obese even.

A war fought over all but six decades. Oh, a battle won here or there, but the trend is lousy. And, the implicit message has always been: get skinny or die early.

Well, heredity and Snickers bars have long impaired my ability to do the former.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm445: Another dietary mistake

July 20, 2008

dreamstime_3286477

© Simone Van Den Berg | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Summertime. People are vacationing. The weather, here in the Northern Hemisphere, at least (reportedly quite chilly in Oz, sorry guys!) is excessively hot and humid. The beach beckons.

News is sparse, but the need to sell the advertisers’ wares means that the 24-hour news cycle keeps on spinning.

Thus a story in the New England Journal of Medicine received undue prominence this week: a report on a clinical study of a comparison of two popular diet programs, the Atkins diet (once a tool of yr (justifiably) humble svt) vs. the Mediterranean diet (a favored tool of an official brother of y[j]hs). So it was all over the headlines for a day or so, midweek, filling those column inches and 30-second sound bites during the summer doldrums and of more than a little personal interest.

This was a 2-year study, and the weight loss reported was depressingly small. What was going on?

I turned, as often I do when trying to dig beneath the headlines on medical issues, to Left-Handed Complement‘s favorite authority on such medical studies, especially as regards weight loss, Sandy Szwarc, writing in her amazingly wise blog, Junkfood Science. Here are some previous occasions when she cut through the jargon and the statistical distortions for us.

Junkfood Science: Sandy Szwarc’s Genius

mm390: Mudge’s Healthy Obsession
mm363: “60 Minutes:” Dead wrong?
mm305: Google Health – 1984 for the 21st Century
mm276: Fat Tuesday…
mm197: Short attention span
mm177: Healthy eating — Overrated!
mm165: Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox #13

Sure enough, yesterday’s Junkfood Science post provided a thorough analysis, detailed but not excessively technical, of the study. Were you aware, for example, that it was partially funded by the Atkins people?

Read the rest of this entry »


mm400: A trend that I can really support

June 4, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

As faithful reader no doubt recalls, health issues are always taken quite seriously here in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©. Indeed, we have devoted quite a number of posts to health topics, most recently here (you might also be interested in this recent post; it contains an ambitious link table that lists many previous stories).

Yr (justifiably) humble svt is hardly a serious drinker. Beer, especially in its American incarnation, is boring and bloating. Don’t frequent taverns, even the gigantic outdoor ones called ballparks and football stadia. Spirits with an adult taste, like Scotch, are an acquired taste I’ve never bothered to acquire. Whiskeys that can be masked with sweet ingredients have on a few, thankfully long ago occasions, led to public displays of an embarrassing nature.

Oh, through the years, I have relished a good glass or two of wine at a decent restaurant, but I have not made a study of wine, nor do I maintain a pretension toward oenophilia. When wine is consumed, I’m Goldilocks: not too sweet, not too dry: just right.

But, like any serious imbiber (of popular media, at least), I’ve long heard of the purported health effects of red wine. A glass of red wine daily is supposed to help with cholesterol levels, and mitigate other common conditions of middle age, even to constrain the aging process. This is news usually taken, not with a grain of salt (salt! the devil!), but with our usual, curmudgeonly skepticism:

Something that can be expensive, and that can easily get careless consumers drunk is good for you? Nice try, Napa and Sonoma!

Au contraire, mes amis! ( <– French reference for my really serious oenophile readers.)

nytimes

New Hints Seen That Red Wine May Slow Aging

Research | By NICHOLAS WADE | Published: June 4, 2008

Red wine may be much more potent than was thought in extending human lifespan, researchers say in a new report that is likely to give impetus to the rapidly growing search for longevity drugs.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm390: Mudge’s Healthy Obsession

May 24, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

While puttering around doing the formatting and graphics hunt for today’s effort, discovered that, without really being specifically aware of it, MUDGE has devoted at least 30 posts to issues relating to health. That’s a sizable chunk of time and attention.

But, why not? As we’ve noted frequently, the oldest of the Boomer cohort of which I am nearly a charter member is 62 years old, eligible to retire (and, indeed, a number of MUDGE’s friends have already done so). And, regardless of age, for at least the past 25 years we Boomers have paid outsized attention to health issues.

This year alone at Casa MUDGE, while dealing with the Achilles tendon partial tear that has been a pest for way too long and my wife’s rotator cuff issue (after the last cortisone injection, doing very well thank you), we continue our concern with our Los Angeles daughter’s Crohn’s disease (current treatment seems to be helping, thank goodness, although there’s a health insurance battle brewing), and my dear mother’s recent diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (she’s fighting it tenaciously).

Not to mention, of course, our various chronic conditions for which our monthly pharmaceutical expense is ever increasing.

So, health is on our mind, all of the time. Fortunately, there is never a lack of news.

In that spirit, to conclude setting the table for today’s health post, here’s a link table of our most important posts on the topic.

healthyobsession1_thumb[3] dreamstime_1230255-400_thumb[4] MUDGE‘s Healthy Obsession

mm386: Your Boomer brain…
mm363: “60 Minutes:” Dead wrong?
mm346: All together now: Ewwwww
mm325: I’m an Internet informed parent…
mm323: Get medicine out of the hands…
mm305: Google Health – 1984 for the 21st Century
mm283: Cause and effect: an ongoing mystery
mm281: No! Don’t take away my Mountain Dew!
mm276: Fat Tuesday…
mm270: Health trilogy
mm268: Sometimes it’s personal
mm251: Stem cells – Lab harvests non-destructively
mm230: Stem cells; Insurance scum; Overtreatment!
mm227: Nanotechnology: The future is safe?
mm223: Pigs, bees, fish – dangerous ways
mm221: The dread disease we all hope to catch
mm201: Stemming the tide of ignorance
mm200: Stem cells: an alternative source
mm198: GM foods – Wrongheaded opposition
mm197: Short attention span
mm190: U.S. Health Care – Excuses, not facts
mm177: Healthy eating — Overrated!
mm176.5: Sleep: The Threequel
mm176: Sleep: But <after> you read this, please!
mm172: Diabetes: Not so simple, Simon…
mm171: Maintain your brain
mm165: Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox #13
mm152: Evidence of genetic response to diet
mm073: 22 ways to overclock your brain
mm012: Hazardous to your health

Read the rest of this entry »


mm230: Stem Cells; Insurance Scum; Overtreatment!

December 22, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Yes, fan, it’s a Health/Medical edition of SASB!

shortattention_thumb2 ©

We begin with a doubly frightening topic: Cancer combined with cancerous Stem Cells. This story hit NYTimes:

nytimes

Scientists Weigh Stem Cells’ Role as Cancer Cause

By GINA KOLATA | Published: December 21, 2007

Within the next few months, researchers at three medical centers expect to start the first test in patients of one of the most promising — and contentious — ideas about the cause and treatment of cancer.

The idea is to take aim at what some scientists say are cancerous stem cells — aberrant cells that maintain and propagate malignant tumors.

Although many scientists have assumed that cancer cells are immortal — that they divide and grow indefinitely — most can only divide a certain number of times before dying. The stem-cell hypothesis says that cancers themselves may not die because they are fed by cancerous stem cells, a small and particularly dangerous kind of cell that can renew by dividing even as it spews out more cells that form the bulk of a tumor. Worse, stem cells may be impervious to most standard cancer therapies.

Not everyone accepts the hypothesis of cancerous stem cells. Skeptics say proponents are so in love with the idea that they dismiss or ignore evidence against it. Dr. Scott E. Kern, for instance, a leading pancreatic cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins University, said the hypothesis was more akin to religion than to science.

“…more akin to religion than to science.” How fitting when stem cells are the topic!

Of course these are one’s own, cancerous stem cells in question.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Scientists Weigh Stem Cells’ Role as Cancer Cause – New York Times

Here’s the telling quote:

“Not only are some of the approaches we are using not getting us anywhere, but even the way we approve drugs is a bad model,” he said. Anti-cancer drugs, he noted, are approved if they shrink tumors even if they do not prolong life. It is the medical equivalent, he said, of mowing a dandelion field.

Cancer patients and their families are desperate, so promising drugs can get expedited approval, even if, as noted, they don’t prolong life.

It would be spectacular if this stem cell related research might yield an effective, more permanent treatment.

Now, let’s get angry together…

shortattention_thumb2 ©

For some time now, we’ve had Esoterically.net/weblog as a member of L-HC’s blogroll blogroll2. The subtitle has changed since we originally captured it, Life is too short to live it as a Republican,” but the blog continues to highlight the important issues. Here’s one also from Dec. 21 that set me off:

esotericallynetweblog

Health insurance screwup

Published by Len Dec. 21, 2007 at 17:50 under General, Politics

I hope the Sarkisyan family wins their lawsuit and is award millions and millions of dollars. It is time for these $7.00/hour clerks at the insurance companies to stop playing doctor.

Family to Sue Insurer in Transplant Case

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The family of a 17-year-old girl who died hours after her health insurer reversed a decision and said it would pay for a liver transplant plans to sue the company, their attorney said Friday.

Nataline Sarkisyan died Thursday at about 6 p.m. at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center. She had been in a vegetative state for weeks, said her mother, Hilda.

Len updated the post with a link to a more complete analysis definitely worth the detour.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Esoterically.net/weblog » Health insurance screwup

Tragedy is tragedy, but the absolute worst ones are those that were preventable: Katrina, the I-35 bridge, and now Nataline Sarkisyan are all examples of bureaucratic failures caused by a deliberate policy of undercutting the public good in the service of private political agendas, in the first two examples, and shareholder profit, in poor Nataline’s case.

U.S. healthcare needs fixing, and here’s a story pointing to an unexpected cause, and potential fix.

shortattention_thumb2 ©

This week, NYTimes published its list of top economics books as chosen by its columnist, David Leonhardt. His No. 1 book is one I’d not encountered shame on me!

nytimes

No. 1 Book, and It Offers Solutions

By DAVID LEONHARDT | Published: December 19, 2007

In 1967, Jack Wennberg, a young medical researcher at Johns Hopkins, moved his family to a farmhouse in northern Vermont.

“Overtreated” by Shannon Brownlee, above, diagnoses the big flaw in medical spending.

Dr. Wennberg had been chosen to run a new center based at the University of Vermont that would examine medical care in the state. With a colleague, he traveled around Vermont, visiting its 16 hospitals and collecting data on how often they did various procedures.

The results turned out to be quite odd. Vermont has one of the most homogenous populations in the country — overwhelmingly white (especially in 1967), with relatively similar levels of poverty and education statewide. Yet medical practice across the state varied enormously, for all kinds of care. In Middlebury, for instance, only 7 percent of children had their tonsils removed. In Morrisville, 70 percent did.

Dr. Wennberg and some colleagues then did a survey, interviewing 4,000 people around the state, to see whether different patterns of illness could explain the variations in medical care. They couldn’t. The children of Morrisville weren’t suffering from an epidemic of tonsillitis. Instead, they happened to live in a place where a small group of doctors — just five of them — had decided to be aggressive about removing tonsils.

But here was the stunner: Vermonters who lived in towns with more aggressive care weren’t healthier. They were just getting more health care.

That last bears repeating: Vermonters who lived in towns with more aggressive care weren’t healthier. They were just getting more health care.”

As you’ve doubtless heard, this country spends far more money per person on medical care than other countries and still seems to get worse results. We devote 16 percent of our gross domestic product to health care, while Canada and France, where people live longer, spend about 10 percent.

So, we’re overtreated, but undercured. Part due to our fee-for-service system; part due to our own ignorance of medicine’s true costs when we ourselves are the patients; part due to that byzantine health insurance system” that dazzles and confuses us, and lets Natalines die rather than pay.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

No. 1 Book, and It Offers Solutions – New York Times

As Leonhardt makes clear, the true value of this book is that it has clear and achievable recommendations for reforming our sick healthcare system.

When it’s back in stock (ah, the power of the press!) we ought to buy copies for every senator, congressperson and presidential candidate.

So, that’s our Health/Medicine edition of SASB shortattention©. Stay healthy!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Note!: the links to Amazon.com used above is for the convenience of faithful reader and represents no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. It’s an artifact of Sequitur Service©. Deal with it.


mm227: Nanotechnology: The future is now — is it safe?

December 19, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Nanotechnology. The gee-whiz technology of our future. Tiny robotic surgeons, injected into our bloodstream, repairing damaged organs and scouring clogged arteries. “Fantastic Voyage” made real.

That nanotechnology hasn’t arrived quite yet. But, The Economist, the best magazine on the planet, explored today’s nanotechnology in a recent issue, and raised some rather unsettling questions. Because, as it happens, nanotechnology has arrived in a big way, as it were, and once again, we may not be aware of its implications.

A little risky business

Nov 22nd 2007 | From The Economist print edition

The unusual properties of tiny particles contain huge promise. But nobody knows how safe they are. And too few people are trying to find out

Illustration by Bill Butcher

WAVING a packet of carbon nanotubes accusingly at the assembled American politicians during a hearing last month in Congress, Andrew Maynard was determined to make a point. The nanotechnology expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in Washington, DC, had bought the tiny tubes on the internet. They had arrived in the post along with a safety sheet describing them as graphite and thus requiring no special precautions beyond those needed for a nuisance dust.

Dr Maynard’s theatrics were designed to draw attention to a growing concern about the safety of nanotechnology. The advice he had received was at best uncertain, and at worst breathtakingly negligent. For a start, describing carbon nanotubes as graphite was rather like describing a lump of coal as a diamond. Graphite is made of carbon, just like the nanotubes, although the tubes themselves are about 1m times smaller than the graphite that makes up the “lead” in a pencil. Carbon nanotubes may be perfectly safe, but then again, they may have asbestos-like properties. Nobody knows. Indeed, industry, regulators and governments know little about the general safety of all manner of materials that are made into fantastically small sizes.

Let’s start with a level set: turns out that nanotechnology is more than the tiny machines that I’ve always been led to imagine that the field encompasses:

In the past few years the number of consumer products claiming to use nanotechnology has dramatically grown—to almost 600 by one count. Patents are rapidly being filed (see chart 1). For a product to count as nanotechnology, it does not need to contain a tiny machine—though some seers imagine that as the field’s ultimate aim. It is enough merely for some of the material to have been tinkered with at a small scale. Often that can involve grinding down a substance into particles that may be only a few nanometres big—a nanometre is a billionth of a metre—about 100,000th of the thickness of a sheet of paper. These particles can also be engineered into shapes that provide some functional property, like rigidity. The variety of shapes includes rings, shells, wires, beads, cages and plates. The particles and shapes can also be incorporated into other materials to bestow useful properties on them.

Examples are cosmetics and sunscreens, where ground up nanoparticles of titanium oxide can block ultraviolet rays but remain transparent.

Problem is, that while scaling known elements into tiny sizes can improve their functionality in tremendously useful ways, it might also increase toxicity, by making the particles much more reactive than in their normal state. Because nanoparticles can thus be more reactive, and are so infinitesimal, they could breach the body’s normal defense against invasion and perhaps accumulate to possibly toxic levels in the organs.

Concerned yet? You might become more so when you learn that there is no clear consensus in industry or among government regulators regarding the amount of risk, or even whether there is risk at all, in the growing use of nanotechnology, even for those products meant to be applied to the skin of, or consumed internally by humans.

Meanwhile, commercial application of nanotechnology is increasing:

Meanwhile, nanotechnology is becoming part of the global economy. It could help produce trillions of dollars of products by 2014, ranging from face creams to computer chips and car panels, according to Lux Research. The risks from these products will often be very low or non-existent. In the computer industry, for instance, making smaller and smaller features on the surface of a chip is not likely to involve much risk to computer users. Motorists probably have little to fear from carbon nanotubes being embedded into a car door to make it more crash-resistant. Yet what happens to such products at the end of their life remains a question.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The risk in nanotechnology | A little risky business | Economist.com

MUDGE is all for pushing the envelope, creating breakthroughs, reaching for Mars. But in our haste toward the future, the risks involved should be given more than lip service, or remain in the hands of organizations whose priorities are conflicted.

Or else we won’t be able to blame the next health scare on China.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE