Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Guy Who Really Increased Our Lifespans

Western medicine likes to take credit for increasing the lifespans of North Americans and Western Europeans in the past decade. It is true that our lifespans have increased greatly since the nineteenth century, when most of us only lived to be in our mid-forties or fifties. And that coincides with the widespread usage of pharmaceutical drugs and surgical techniques. There was also a noticeable decline in plagues during this time, which Western medicine also takes credit for.

Certainly, antibiotics were a miracle for many things (although we are paying a price for them now due to supergerms), but there was a man and an invention that paralleled Western medicine who really deserves the credit for increasing our lifespans and even reducing the plagues.

His name is Thomas Crapper. He is credited with inventing, or at least popularizing, the water closet, or flush toilet. The official Thomas Crapper Website says that Sir John Harington of England was the actual inventor in 1592. However, Crapper certainly played a big role in making it popular, and he did invent the modern bathroom showcase.

The widespread usage of flush toilets allowed Western Europeans and, later, North Americans, to maintain a safe distance from their own feces, which had a very beneficial effect on everyone's health. Many of the diseases suffered in the Third World are due to inadequate sanitation.

Here's another clue. In several Western countries, the death rates have decreased markedly during strikes held by medical doctors. What does this say?

I do believe that Western medicine (drugs, surgery) has it's place in our medical system. For myself and my wife, we consider it the last resort in healthcare. If our homeopathics, and changing our lifestyle/diet/exercise, and herbs and meditation don't help, then we should try drugs and surgery. But until then, we steer clear.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Arthur C. Clarke Funds a Magazine on Cold Fusion

Arthur C. Clarke, eminent science-fiction writer, has funded a new energy magazine, dedicated to new types of energy creation technologies, most prominently cold fusion.

The magazine, called Infinite Energy, is available through subscription at their Website.

It seems that cold fusion really does exist, we just need to put some oomph! behind it and develop it as an energy source. As I've said before, our energy future is going to depend on an "energy portfolio" combining wind, solar, geothermal, cold fusion, hydrogen, hydro and fossil fuels. The strength is in the combination, and relationships, between the various sources. There is no ONE right answer.

I can't help getting excited about reducing our dependency on foreign oil. Although I'm originally from Canada, who is the number 1 supplier of oil to America, I still want to see America get rid of this economic crutch that is holding it back in so many ways. Think about the huge cost of the Iraqi war that could have been avoided if we were already working smart toward energy independence. What is it now, over $100 Billion? Wow, that would have paid for half of the reconstruction of New Orleans right there.

Information Haves and Have Nots

Today, if you hear that someone has successfully conducted a physics experiment and discovered a new energy source (let's say, cold fusion), you can assume that person is a physicist by training.

However, I believe as the Internet continues to change our global society, that will change. People who are not physicists will make valuable contributions to physics. People who are not medical doctors will conduct medical research and discover new ways of healing.

The amount of information on any particular topic, especially the sciences, is so vast that someone could possibly (albeit not easily) educate themselves to the point where they can advance the level of that topic beyond what anyone had envisioned.

It is my understanding that MIT has decided to put all their class material on the Internet for free to anyone who wants it.

Can you imagine a kid in Thailand who reads and reads and reads and finally comes up with a new theory that can stop global warming in its tracks?

How can this be a bad thing? Of course, the people who were classically trained in the sciences will be horrified when this happens, but perhaps this also means that science will not have to advance "one funeral at a time," because it won't be necessary to put every new theory through the established channels of approval, and instead it will be something that many "unqualified people" dabble in.

The age of information "haves" and "have nots" will be over.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Who are the Bastards Making Money Off the Inflated Gasoline Prices?

Um, well, hmm. This is uncomfortable.

You see, ah, I'm making money off the inflated gasoline prices.

Here's why. No, I don't own an oil company.

My Renewable Energy Portfolio is Making Cash

Several years ago I decided to create an "renewable energy portfolio" of corporate stocks, because I absolutely knew that oil prices were headed skyward (we all knew this back in 1999, remember?) and decided that certain companies would greatly benefit from this. First, oil companies would benefit, as we've seen. But also, the renewable energy companies would benefit.

As Goes the Price of Oil, So Go the Prices of Renewable Stocks

The reason renewables benefit is because as the price of oil rises, it begins to overtake the costs of the renewables. For instance, using oil to fire power plants has always been cheaper than, say, wind turbine energy. But now, it's not. Oil is more expensive. So, companies that make wind turbines are making tons of money, because people are starting to turn to these alternatives, including companies like American Electric Power. They bought out Enron's entire wind farm collection in Texas in 2002, and having been on a buying streak in renewables ever since.

So, my renewable energy portfolio has been doing really well. In fact, my investments there far outpace what I pay extra in heating bills and to put gasoline in the tank of my car. So, overall, I'm making out like bandit.

Start Your Own Renewable Energy Portfolio Today!

So how do you fight high gasoline prices? Start your own renewable energy portfolio of stocks. Think wind, solar, geothermal, biodiesel, hydrogen and hybrid cars. You really can't go wrong. (Due diligence in picking good company stocks is still important, of course.) As much as my portfolio has increased in the past six years, it's nothing to what is coming as oil prices continue to rise worldwide.

Oh, why didn't I buy a renewable energy mutual fund? There weren't any good ones back then. I found one but it had performed so poorly that I could not stomach putting cash into it. I haven't checked to see how it's done since 2002, but I'll bet it's doing fine.

You know what? I just checked and it's still doing pretty poorly. It seems to be a very volatile fund, up like crazy one year, and down even more the next year. You might be better off on your own.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Podsafe Music Network - An Efficient Marketplace

I really like the Podsafe Music Network, and I now understand one major reason why.

Obviously, it's a great place to find new music, it's well organized and some of the songs are utterly fantastic.

It's an efficient marketplace.

The best artists, as rated by listeners and podcasters, rise to the top based solely on the quality of their songs. No major record promoters who are pitching sub-par material, pushing it to the top. Vanilla Ice, you know who I'm talking about.

As a result, it becomes easier and easier to find great music on this Website, because the rating system just takes over. Yes, I'm sure someone will try to hack the rating system, but the Web programmers of this site will undoubtedly overcome the hacks and keep it working.

An efficient marketplace. Isn't that cool?

The podcasts play the music for no cost, and then the listeners are driven to the musicians' Websites, where they can purchase the songs.

It's a start.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Ten Things I Love About America

Wholly inspired by Mike Adams NewsTarget article "Why America is Still a Great Place to Live," I'd like to give my loyal blog readers the top ten things I truly love about this country.

#10 - The Beauty of the Land

America, from sea to shining sea. What a place this is! The coasts are incredible, the plains are breathtaking in their expanse, the mountains are a natural wonder, the deserts are so beautiful. While travelling, I find myself again and again just wanting to explore North America, without even considering the possibilities of travelling to Europe, Asia, etc. Why? Am I some kind of paranoid isolationist? No, I don't think so. There is just so much to see here. Why not try to take it all in?

#9 - The Melting Pot
If you come to America, there is a lot that's expected of you. You don't necessarily have to learn English, but you are expected to behave in certain ways. Coming from Canada, as I did years ago, this is a breath of fresh air. In Canada, we consider our country a "mosaic." This means that every culture can fit in "as is" without having to change to meet the Canadian culture. This causes huge problems. I can remember one problem with Sikhs who had joined the police force in Canada, knowing full well that they needed to shave their beards and wear an RCMP uniform, suddenly complaining that they had to keep their beards and wanted to wear a special ceremonial dagger on their uniforms. In fact, they didn't even want to wear the RCMP uniform, they wanted to wear a special Sikh garment. Give me a break!

The melting pot is a better cultural norm. Stick with it, America.

#8 - Patriotism
Although this may make you cringe, given the knee-jerk reaction of Bushies to world events, it is very important that America retains its strong patriotism. In Canada, we just don't have that level of pride in our country.

America's patriotism bursts out often, at Independence Day celebrations, during wars, during elections. And patriotism is shown in so many ways. Waving flags, honoring veterans, and disagreeing with the government are very common ways of showing one's patriotism here. And all are well accepted.

#7 - The Founding Fathers
What an incredible beginning this country had! The Founding Fathers - George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, James Madison, and all - are such an incredible bunch of people, they've inspired all of us to this day with their ideas, their courage, their boldness. As you know, I'm reading a book about that era called "Burr" by Gore Vidal, and it is just showing me how these daring rebels formed the basis of a nation on rebellion. How this country can simultaneously be rebelling against itself and still be stable is a wonder. It also has shown me how the Founding Fathers really had many doubts themselves as to whether they could honestly create a new country all by themselves. But they did. And the spirit of the Founding Fathers lives on everytime someone tries to create something new here in America.

#6 - Convenience
Geez, I love convenience. The ability to shop on the Internet, get stuff delivered by Fedex, go to a mall where everything is just there - I really love the convenience. The level of convenience varies from place to place, even here in the U.S. I've found that Midwestern cities are more dedicated to convenience for people, whereas coastal cities seem to be less convenient. I remember working in San Francisco, and I suddenly realized that San Francisco was an expensive, inconvenient place, while my current home of Columbus, Ohio is inexpensive and convenient. But even S.F. is a whole lot easier to deal with than cities abroad.

#5 - The Political System
Again, with George W. Bush in office, it's hard to me to say how great the political system is, but you just have to compare it to the alternatives. Look at the British system of government, or Canadian, or even dictatorships in Asia or the Middle East. We got it good here.

The British parliamentary system (effectively copied in Canada), is horrendous ineffective. It just doesn't represent the people. In Canada, we always knew the results of the national elections before even one vote was counted from our home province of Alberta. It was disgusting. It was not equal, in the way guaranteed by the balance of the House of Representatives and the Senate here in the U.S. And in Canada, it's the usual thing for the Prime Minister and the majority in Parliament to be from the same party. That's how the system is rigged. When the Parliament has a majority for a particular party, that almost guarantees that the Prime Minister is going to be from the same party. Seeing how bad it is for America to have an all Republican government (like now) or an all Democratic government (like in the 70s), you can imagine what it's like to have that situation almost guaranteed by law. It just doesn't work.

#4 - A Culture of Innovation
America truly values innovation. Yes, the big companies try to beat it down when it arises, but it always arises anyway. Americans seem to assume that the big companies will get toppled over by the newcomer every few decades. The Microsoft's will beat the IBM's. The Southwest Airlines will kill the Delta Airlines. It's just going to happen.

What a great attitude. What an excellent environment for innovation.

#3 - People Who Care
Even though the political system here in the U.S. is meant to "preserve the power of the few," the little guys always seem to get through. I'm thinking particularly of a political movement I'm involved with right now in Ohio. It's an eye-opening experience to be part of this, much less leading it! And I'm learning so much about how it's very, very possible to change the political process with just a little bit of money and a few hundred supporters. It is possible, and it's not even that hard. You just gotta get up off your ass.

#2 - Outrage
Point #3 leads me to "outrage." I love the American capability to get outraged at things that aren't right. Look at the situation in New Orleans this month. Hurricane Katrina blew through and flooded New Orleans, and the federal and state governments were caught flat-footed. Then they started to lie to try to cover themselves, but everyone, I mean EVERYONE, caught them in the lie. I love it! I love the outrage, the calling authority figures to task. Let's see more of that, huh?

#1 - The Entrepreneurial Spirit
The most important reason for America's success, in my mind, is the capitalist economy. Nothing is more empowering, more wealth-creating, than the effective implementation of capitalism in a country. And that means that the overzealous government officials need to "let go" and let the economy work. That doesn't mean total hands-off, but it means the government refraining from offering hand-outs to corporations that give money to political campaigns. Get out of that business entirely, please! It slows down the innovation process, and it throws a wrench in our capitalist system. No friggin' hand-outs to businesses, please!

That's it for my Top Ten list. Let me know what you think, America.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Hydrogen Storage Solution

It seems as though scientists in Denmark have come up with a way to store large quantities of hydrogen gas formed into pellets, which can be handled without any loss of hydrogen.

They say the pellets can be made cheaply and that the hydrogen can be extracted quite easily.

Here's a photo of the pellets. They call it "handheld hydrogen." Cute, huh?

It bothers me a little that this discovery comes from Denmark. Is George Bush's ignorance of hydrogen and other renewables going to put the U.S. permanently behind in the race towards finding the best renewable energy sources? Hope not.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Why Do Doctors Test Holistic Remedies?

There have been many controlled studies on herbs and vitamin therapy lately. Many of them say that the products work, many say they don't work.

My contention is with the people doing the testing. They are medical doctors and medical scientists. Why?

These people don't know what these products do. They don't know how to administer them to patients, because they've never used them with patients before. As we saw with the echinacea study earlier this year, they often don't even know which part of the plant to use, and therefore come to incorrect conclusions about the herbal remedies.

Why don't the holistic practitioners do the testing? Those people use these therapies every day with patients, they know what side effects to look for, and how to counteract them. (Herbs really don't have many side effects, but it would still make sense to have a high-quality practitioner watching for them.)

Don't you think that's strange? How would a medical doctor view a study done of a pharmaceutical drug by a plumber?