Monday, September 25, 2006

Getting the FujiFilm F20SE Camera to Use iPhoto on Mac OS X


I just bought a Fuji FinePix F20SE digital camera for my wife. She already had a nice little Nikon Coolpix 2500, but it didn't have the resolution she needed, plus the Fuji had image stabilization and a huge LCD panel on the back.

Anyway, I set it up on her computer (a Mac Mini running OS X Tiger) and was dismayed to find out the installation CD wanted me to install a bunch of crap software, including a viewer program called FinePixViewer. What a disaster! The installer looks like a Mac OS 9 program, and then when the viewer comes up it looks like a clunky version of iPhoto.

And the integration between FinePixViewer and iPhoto??? None.

Oh, I was mad.

So, I set about figuring out how to get FinePixViewer off the machine and get the camera talking to iPhoto. I checked the Apple Website for cameras that it supported - alas, the FinePix F20SE was not on the list.

I decided to take the two FinePixViewer packages sitting in my application folder and drag them to the trash to see what happened.

Then I tried loading the photos from the camera. iPhoto popped open! Yes! But then, it wouldn't load the photos in. It recognized the camera model perfectly, but no photos.

My solution was to close iPhoto, disconnect the camera, and reboot the machine. After that, I connected the camera again, with great apprehension. Guess what?? It worked.

iPhoto immediately loaded all the pictures in from the camera, and everything recognized everything else.

I don't know whether I could have avoided the installation disks altogether. I'm guessing I couldn't, because it's pretty clear that Apple's iPhoto does NOT carry the drivers for the FujiFilm FinePix F20 SE, so the drivers would have to be loaded somehow. And the installation CD from the camera would NOT allow me to load drivers only.

So, that was my story for getting the Fuji F20 SE to work with iPhoto:
  1. Load the drivers and crappy viewer software (Fine Pix Viewer) from the camera installation CD.

  2. Load the photos from the camera into FinePixViewer.

  3. Close FinePixViewer and delete it and the other application in the Applications folder.

  4. Disconnect the camera, reboot the Mac.

  5. Load the photos in from the camera into iPhoto.

It should work. Hopefully, Apple will have the drivers for this camera as standard within iPhoto. I think this is going to be a popular model, it has excellent features. My wife loves it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Holistic Health Nation Featured on Global Public Radio

I've decided to feature my podcast Holistic Health Nation on the radio network Global Public Radio.

Global Public Radio is a Website that features a variety of podcasts that express alternate points of view from the mainstream.

Here is what they do:
Our goal - To bring political and economic awareness, personal responsibility, and the development of consciousness and environmental awareness and sustainability into the mainstream through the Global Public Radio program.

Non-commercial - As you listen to Global Public Radio you will notice that we don't air commercial messages like other talk radio stations do. Neither do we solicit cash contributions.

Support - You can help support Global Public Radio in a unique way. We offer shopping opportunities with affiliated sponsors through the GPR Sponsors page. When you do this, a portion of your purchase goes to Global Public Radio.

You can also support GPR by telling friends and associates to listen and and encourage them to shop affiliated sponsors.


Let me know what you think of their Website. The streaming radio program should begin shortly.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Modern Marvels Hosts a Renewable Energy Show on the History Channel


Modern Marvels, the often interesting series on the History Channel, is showing a feature on Renewable Energy this coming Wednesday (9/20). I'm excited to see their take on the status of these sources of energy, and that perhaps this message will be getting to a lot of people who haven't heard the details of what's going on in this field.

Modern Marvels
"Renewable Energy"
History Channel
September 20 - 8pm (7pm Central)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Jennifer Aniston - Yoga Gives Me Strength



Fashion Monitor's Website has an article on Jennifer Aniston's dedication to yoga, especially since her break up with Brad Pitt.

Apparently Jen had a breakthrough moment right after a yoga class. As she describes it "I was doing yoga with my girlfriend and we were finished and we were sort of sitting there just stretching and I looked over at her and I said, 'You know what, I'm feeling a feeling - I don't know if I've ever actually felt before, buy I don't want to be anywhere other than where I am right now - sitting across from you."

Yoga really is special. I've had moments similar to that, and also after I had been doing yoga for a long time.

There is something about Jennifer's energy. It seems like no matter what movie she's in, I like it. I know she's been in some really bad movies (I haven't seen The Breakup, though) , but something about her being there makes it okay. Yes, she's incredibly pretty, but is there something else? Or am I just being a man?

Also, here's a little known fact about Jennifer. She went to a Rudolf Steiner school as a little girl when she lived in New York with her mother.

From Sewage Sludge, Wood, Manure, Trash, and Even Plastic To Diesel



AutoblogGreen has an article today stating that University of California Riverside, in parnership with a private company, have created a new process that can turn many of society's waste products into diesel fuel, including sewage sludge, waste wood products, agricultural waste, trash and plastics.

Diesel engines have long been able to burn a surprising variety of compounds as fuel, but this new process has more promise than most. First, the items are turned into a gas, then that gas is converted into a liquid fuel.

This process is supposed to be less costly, more efficient and faster than previous gassification efforts.

The end result is that a gallon of diesel can be created for about $1 U.S. per gallon. Retail prices would obviously be higher, but a $2/gallon price doesn't seem out of the question, making it very competitive with gasoline today.

I have two big questions. One is -- what waste gases come out of the gasification process and just filter out into the atmosphere? It seems like there would be a lot. And two - is the diesel fuel that results high quality, or would it have a lot of impurities in it that would damage or clog engines?

Still, this is another positive step towards energy efficiency and actually turning our trash problem into an advantage. I love ideas that take a systems view of our entire society and our planet.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Transaction Number and Label Number for Post Office Click and Ship Refund


Okay, this took me days (literally) to figure out, so I'm telling you here and hopefully you can just search for it and find it easily on this blog.

Being a home-based entrepreneur (and married to one) I use the U.S. Post Office's service "Click 'n Ship" a lot. Almost every single business day.

It is an excellent service. We sign in to the USPS.com Website, print out a mailing label and stamp using our credit card, and then leave it on the porch for the mail carrier to pick up that morning. It is so friggin' easy and convenient.

But what about refunds? Well, yes, you can get a refund for a Click 'n Ship label that you didn't use. But their refund page is VERY confusing.

Here's what I finally figured out:

1. When the refund request page asks you for Transaction Number you look on your receipt on the label you printed (but didn't use) and use Transaction #. Simple enough.

2. When the refund request page asks you for Label Number you again go to the receipt for the label and use Delivery Confirmation Number. That's the big bold number across the top of the "Online Label Record" box.


Number 2 is what took me days to figure out. I entered so many different numbers that I thought it would lock out my user ID (but it didn't, thankfully). I just couldn't believe that they meant delivery confirmation.

I guess it was weird for me, because delivery confirmation number is optional when you take a package to the post office manually, but with Click 'n Ship is is mandatory (and free, by the way).

Okay, got it??

Transaction Number = Transaction #
Label Number = Delivery Confirmation Number



I feel better now.

Oh, and if you need a place to buy the labels with a perfect little peel-off for the label then the bottom for the receipt, choose Label Universe. They're excellent.

Monday, September 11, 2006

EPA Going With 100% Green Power


You know me, I'm always trying to find both sides of the story, but on this one, it's all up side as far as I can tell.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. has proclaimed that it will use 100% green energy for its buildings. It's doing this by purchasing nearly 300 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of green power annually in the form of renewable energy certificates (RECs) or delivered product. They say that this amount is equal to 100 percent of the total estimated annual electricity consumption at all of EPA’s nearly 200 facilities across the country—enough electricity to power 27,084 homes for an entire year.

How cool is that? The EPA leading the way for the rest of us on green power! I'm so proud of them! Holy crap!

I guess there's no mention of their automotive usage, so maybe they're just focusing on how much electricity and natural gas, etc. they're using for the buildings. That's my guess.

Even one agency doing this has such a huge effect on our environment. The EPA's decision will mean that 616,279,179 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will be avoided annually.

And all of this under the Bush administration! Why aren't the media going nuts over this? I guess it got missed in all the coverage of the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Too bad. But understandable.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Bill Maher is Back!


Well, it's official. Bill Maher is back.

Yes, his season of Real Time started about two weeks ago, but it was a rocky start. I blogged about his first show, where most of the jokes bombed and the guests were even worse. Even "New Rules" was a washout.

But this week's show was great. Bill's back.

The Best Earphones for Your iPod or Other Portable Music Device



Okay, after years of searching, I stumbled upon the best earphones for my iPod --- for me.

They are the Koss P-9 In-Ear Headphones. They're actually earphones - no padding around the ear.

Here's why they're so great:
  • They stay in my ears. The regular Apple earbuds do not stay in, especially on my left ear. My ear canal must be shaped a little weird or something. But these Koss earphones stay in.

  • Great sound. They're Koss.

  • Easy to put on and off. You can tell which one is left/right just by the shape, no need to look for "L" and "R."

  • Cheap. Amazon has them for only $10 plus shipping.

  • Fits people with funny ear lobes. My wife has a hard time clipping earphones over the top of her ear, but these fit her fine.

  • Widely available. I actually bought them at Radio Shack, but it seems like Amazon's price is better.

  • Cord is the right length. I am kind of tall, so sometimes I get these earphones with short cords that don't allow me to have the iPod in my fanny pack, but this cord is just the right length.

I think the iPod earbug crisis has been solved. I can listen to my music without worrying about the earbuds falling out while I'm mowing the lawn or bending over to pick a weed. These suckers stay in.

I haven't really found a downside. I'll let you know in a future post if they crap out on me for any reason.

Way to go, Koss!

Contact ABC to Ask Them to Drop Their Miniseries "The Path to 9/11"



I urge you to contact the ABC television network today to ask them not to show their new miniseries "The Path to 9/11."

This miniseries is filled with inaccuracies and falsehoods created to portray the Clinton administration as bumbling and inept, while showing the Bush government as strong and on top of it all.

We really don't need this kind of crap on television. Ask ABC to cancel their showing of this TV special.

Even Harvey Keitel, pictured above, has stated that he feels there are inaccuracies in the film and has called on ABC to fix them before airing the miniseries.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Project Censored - Here are the Top 25 Underreported News Stories

Project Censored is a kind of media watchdog organization that maintains a list of the most underreported (hmm, least reported?) stories in the media.

Why aren't these stories getting aired? Some say they already are, but maybe not. If they're not getting reported, maybe there's something happening behind the scenes.

Here are their Top Twenty-Five Underreported Stories:

#1 Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media

#2 Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran

#3 Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger

#4 Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the US

#5 High-Tech Genocide in Congo

#6 Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy

# 7 US Operatives Torture Detainees to Death in Afghanistan and Iraq

#8 Pentagon Exempt from Freedom of Information Act

#9 The World Bank Funds Israel-Palestine Wall

#10 Expanded Air War in Iraq Kills More Civilians

#11 Dangers of Genetically Modified Food Confirmed

#12 Pentagon Plans to Build New Landmines

#13 New Evidence Establishes Dangers of Roundup

#14 Homeland Security Contracts KBR to Build Detention Centers in the US

#15 Chemical Industry is EPA’s Primary Research Partner

#16 Ecuador and Mexico Defy US on International Criminal Court

#17 Iraq Invasion Promotes OPEC Agenda

#18 Physicist Challenges Official 9-11 Story

#19 Destruction of Rainforests Worst Ever

#20 Bottled Water: A Global Environmental Problem

#21 Gold Mining Threatens Ancient Andean Glaciers

#22 $Billions in Homeland Security Spending Undisclosed

#23 US Oil Targets Kyoto in Europe

#24 Cheney’s Halliburton Stock Rose Over 3000 Percent Last Year

#25 US Military in Paraguay Threatens Region


You be the judge. And if the mainstream media is self-censoring, who will jump in?

Bloggers unite.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Cost of Solar Power to Drop 50% by 2010



MSNBC reports that Katsuhiko Machida, president of Japan’s Sharp Corp., the world’s largest maker of solar cells, expects the cost of solar power generation to be cut in half by 2010. Solar electricity now costs about $0.50 per kilowatt hour to produce.

Machida also predicted the cost of solar to comparable with that of nuclear power by 2030, and that the use of fossil fuel “will be totally out by then.”

With the price of oil going up (except for the downward blip the past 2 months) and the price of everything else coming down, it seems like it's just a matter of time before Mr. Machida is right, we'll all be using something other than oil.

Thanks to Solar Energy Investing for the tip.

Steve Carson and Pat Smith


Steve Carson


Pat Smith


Strangest darn thing!

As you probably know, I used to work in the computer consulting field for many years. I got out in 2002.

For most of the 1980s and early 1990s, I worked for SHL Systemhouse, Inc. This was a Canadian company that grew to be quite large and was later acquired by EDS, I think.

In the late 1990s, I worked for Claremont Technology Group, acquired by Covansys.

With Systemhouse, our top technologist for many years was Pat Smith. Pat was a great guy. Extremely knowledgeable, could deal with the politics, impressed the hell out of clients, good salesman. He was also one to go to the bar with the young people and tell stories. I liked Pat a lot.

With Claremont, we were growing like gangbusters and then we suddenly had two big projects go bad and the company was about to go under. The Board fired the CEO (Paul Cosgrave) and an interim CEO took over. His name was Steve Carson. I got to know Steve a little bit, because I was in a corporate overhead position at the time and Steve was giving me a fair amount of direction as to how he wanted me to run it. I didn't agree with everything he said, but he was an approachable guy and really knew a lot about running a business.

Well, in each case, we went our separate ways. But my friend mentioned Steve's name the other day and I decided to search for him on Google. Steve is now a CFO at a WIMAX company, riding the Web 2.0 boom, I'm sure. And he is also a Board member for Natural Convergence, a new company that does a software-only VoIP product (Skype-like, I guess).

And the chairman of that board? Pat Smith.

I was so surprised. I wish this company and Pat and Steve well. I'm a little shocked that a company could make a go of it offering such a simple product/service, but it seems like they're doing alright. They must have carved out a niche for themselves.

Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Surfaces in South Africa


A new strain of tuberculosis has been discovered in South Africa. It seems that it is resistant to all known forms of drugs.

This is bad news. However, I haven't seen the media reporting on an important facet of the story.

Why? That's the question.

Why did we get this new strain of tuberculosis? To my understanding, these new strains have a predictable trigger. They come into being because we are overusing antibiotics. When we are buying anti-bacterial soap to wash our hands, we are unnecessarily using an anti-bacterial product (scientists agree that the extra ingredient, triclosan, adds NO protection) and we're creating more exposure for these new strains to be created.

I'm not saying South Africans in particular are using too much anti-bacterial soap, but all of us are too cavalier about taking antibiotics for every little infection or perceived problem. Then when the new strain comes along, we wonder "How could this have happened?"

For myself, I stay away from anti-bacterial anything. I wash my hands often, and use cleaners, like Miracle II, that don't contain these substances. Miracle II has anti-viral properties without creating a haven for new strains of infectious diseases like TB.

Please, media. We want to know the WHY.

Disney Branded Fruit?


I'm not sure how to feel about this one.

Disney is allowing its brand to be used on a variety of fruit packages now, using the Mickey Mouse, Tasmanian Devil and Sponge Bob characters.

"We're doing it predominantly because it is the right thing to do, but secondarily because it is the right business to be in," said Harry Dollman, head of food products licensing for Disney.

There are a couple of great things about this. First, it's a great business move. Disney is distancing itself from the McDonald's Happy Meal thing, and moving towards fruit. Excellent.

Also, heck, it's fruit! That's better than some sugar-coated piece of whatever. That's good too.

I guess (wishful thinking) there's a part of me that wanted them to endorse organic produce. Would that be too radical? Pesticide-free, not genetically manipulated, non-petroleum fertilized organic stuff. There is a Winnie the Pooh organic apple that is coming out in September, but what I'm saying is I wish the whole line was organic. And don't give me the excuse that there isn't enough organic food to make up the volume. Whole Foods Market is a multi-billion dollar grocer that serves a ton of organic produce. It just takes extra work to find it.

But this half-way measure is still pretty great.

So, that's how I feel about this. (How's that again??)

It looks like at least one other columnist is as conflicted as I am, albeit in a different way.

And here's what CNN had to say.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Garden Railroad Tour


Columbus, Ohio (my home town) has a very cool tour coming up this weekend. It's a tour of "garden railroads." These are miniature railroads built in people's backyard gardens. The pictures are breathtaking.

I'm thinking about taking my little brother (from Big Brothers) on this tour if he can make it. Sounds really fun!



Here are the details.

Under USDA Proposal, Beef Can Be Labeled "Grass Fed" Even If It's Feedlot Raised


The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing a new standard to lower the bar on what it means for a cow to be "grass fed." If this passes, beef marketers can sell their beef as "grass fed" as long as they were fed grass at some point in time, but it doesn't have to be grass that they eat while on the open range.

It would also allow cows to be fed "immature corn silage" which you would think would constitute a "corn fed" cow, but under this proposal, it's still grass. Apparently, corn is considered a grass until it starts to sprout the ears, but the USDA is trying to push the definition a little.

And finally, this proposal would allow cows that are injected with antibiotics and hormones to be called grass fed as well. This has the American Grassfed Association up in arms, but I don't really understand that part. It seems like the antibiotics and hormones are a separate issue from whether a cow is grass fed or not. Still, if they can constrict those practices, that would be great, I don't like having them in there anyway.

This is why I tend to ignore the labels on meat or other produce and put my trust into the retailer. I talked about this in my previous post "How to Close the Organic Gap."

Idaho Observer - Aspartame Makes a Great Ant Poison!



The Idaho Observer reports a first-hand account of how aspartame, known as Equal, makes a great ant poison.

This lady had a bad ant problem in her bathroom, and the Orkin Man wasn't able to help. She read that aspartame was originally developed as a poison, so she thought she might try using it.

It worked! The ants took the aspartame crystals away and the ant hill was completely gone - all the ants either dead or evacuated.

She doesn't know the nature of how aspartame poisons the ants. It is an excitotoxin that causes specific brain cells to be become excited to the point where they quickly die.

As with any poison, she warns, wear gloves while using it and DO NOT get any in your mouth!

NOTE: As far as I can tell, the Idaho Observer is not a regular daily newspaper, like the name sounds. It seems to have a lot of articles about aspartame, so this article may be suspect. Still, it's worth a try. We've had ant problems from time to time in our house, and I'm wondering if this might be a solution.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Three Reasons to Continue Believing in Solar


Red Herring magazine gives us three reasons why we should still believe in solar technology.

Have you doubted it? Well, lots of people are doubting investments in solar, with a few of the flagship companies gone bankrupt (AstroPower, etc.) and also the big price drop of oil lately.

Is solar dead? Red Herring says no. I'll give you their reasoning in short form, for the longer version you can click through to their full article.
  • Reason #1 More government support. More and more governments around the world are anteing up for incentives for using solar power. Germany leads the way, with Spain, Italy and South Korea not far behind.

  • Reason #2 Easing supply bottlenecks. Polysilicon has been a bit scarce, which has caused demand to exceed supply for solar panels, but that it changing. Again, Germany is bringing some big plants online, and the U.S. also has a plant coming in Washington state.

  • Reason #3 Growing demand. Big companies around the world are still ramping up their orders, even with scarce product out there and dropping oil prices. They're not showing signs of backing off.

I'm keeping solar in my stock portfolio. Remember, BP is one of the largest solar panel producer in the world. Other companies leading the way are Shell Solar, GE Solar, Sharp and Kyocera.

And I know what you're thinking. These big oil companies - Shell, BP - are just hording the solar technology so they can put it on the shelf and wait until the oil runs out.

Not so.

This does not match their behavior in this market. They are actively competing for market share and are ramping up their capabilities. BP and Shell are very active in solar and other renewables, while Exxon Mobil and Chevron Texaco lag far behind. It is becoming more and more clear which of these are "energy companies" versus "oil companies." My money goes on the energy companies.

Friday, September 01, 2006

General Motors Sequel Car Runs on Hydrogen, Has Other Futuristic Features


General Motors, yes the company that is barely afloat and can't even afford to pay its employees healthcare and pensions, is developing a concept car that is beyond your dreams.

This car, originally introduced in 2002 as the Autonomy, is now called the Sequel.

It's list of amazing technology goes something like this:
  • Powered entirely by hydrogen fuel cells and an on-board hydrogen tank

  • Drive-by-wire. No steering mechanism, it's all by computer.

  • Brake-by-wire. No brake disks or drums, nothing mechanical, all computer.

  • No drivetrain. No transmission. No pedals.

  • Replaceable chassis to suit your needs. Switch your car from a convertible to a station wagon to an SUV.

  • Reversible steering column for left-side or right-side drive (in different countries, etc.).

  • Video screens to replace rear view and side mirrors.

  • Hydrogen fuel cells generate enough electricity to run your house while the car is in the garage.

  • Uses sea water as fuel into the fuel cells, exhaust is water vapor.

  • Will run for 300 miles without a "fill up" (recharging the hydrogen fuel cells)


GM is working with Shell to place 13 hydrogen refueling stations in the greater New York metro area. Hopefully more cities to come.

So, just rush to your GM dealer and...I mean, wait 10-20 years and then rush to your dealer.

But you can get a cool brochure today!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Our Big Screen is Back!

Okay, I'm following up on my post about our Toshiba Theatreview Projection TV. It flaked out two weeks ago and we got the service man here today from Electra Sound.

He was great. The whole repair cost us $350, including the service call. He said it was our convergence integrated circuits (also called convergence amplifiers) that shorted out. It happened, not from lightning strike or power surge, just from wearing out over time. We have the TV on a surge protector, but still, it just wore out.

He said they usually last 4-6 years, so we were lucky to have it last almost 10 years. Still, he said we can expect another 1-2 years from this set before we should replace it. He said most people replace their sets after the second big repair. This was our first big repair.

He also cleaned the inside of the lens and the mirror, which did help the clarity of the picture. I thought there was no burn-in problem on this type of projection TV, but he said it "can" happen. It's just unusual. He said when there are TVs that have the ticker running across the bottom of the screen all day long, that can burn in. Also, the shopping channels where the screen image doesn't change for hours. We haven't tuned in to the friggin' shopping channel ever, I don't think.

So, our beloved TV is back. That's the good news. The bad news is, we don't get to get a flat screen TV just yet (LCD, plasma, etc.). He said he has been repairing a lot of the flat screen TVs, and he frankly suggested that it is good to either wait another year or two for the components to get more field tested, or to get a big long warranty on anything you buy today.

Great advice, I thought.

After he said to wait, I asked him if he had bought one yet. He said he had. An LCD DLP.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Coming in November - Fast Food Nation - The Movie!



This is CRAZY good news!

I just read the book Fast Food Nation a few months ago, years after it was published, and now there's a movie coming out on that same theme, with the same name.

Fast Food Nation - The Movie. Coming to theaters in November.

Here are the movie notes on IMDB.

This is a movie about the seamy underbelly of the fast food industry - what REALLY goes into that burger.

If it is anything like the book, it will be a shocking look at what we take for food in fast food restaurants, and an even bigger slap of reality than Super Size Me.

The list of actors is amazing. Bruce Willis as a farmer who doesn't mind if "people eat a little cow shit." Greg Kinnear as a marketing guy for the fast food chain, known as "Mickey's." (Their burger is called "The Big One." As in...bite the big one.) One of the illegal immigrants is Wilmer Valderama, who played Fez on That 70's Show, and another is Catalina Sandino Moreno, who was in Maria, Full of Grace.

I think they absolutely went over the top casting this movie. It's probably because everybody wanted to work with Richard Linklater, who directed The School of Rock and Waking Life.

I can hardly wait! I actually go to a movie theater about once every two years, and then it's when we're on vacation. But this...I don't know, I might have to make a BIG exception.

However, there is one word of caution. The reviews on IMDB from the Cannes Film Festival aren't very good.

Standard of Living Vs. Quality of Life


Sometimes I think I focus too much on my standard of living, rather than my quality of life.

Ditto when I'm thinking of people in other countries. Just because they have less money than we do, are they necessarily less happy?

Of course, if someone is destitute and starving, that would be a situation where standard of living impacts quality of life. But above that, does money really make us happier?

There's no evidence that it does.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Solve the Health Insurance Crisis...For Free


I've decided to make the e-Book version of my book "Health Insurance Off the Grid" totally free.

To me, it's more important that this information get out to everyone than to have someone suffer because they couldn't afford the book.

The book "Health Insurance Off the Grid" is a guidebook to help make the cost of health insurance reasonable again. And no, I'm not a health insurance agent, I don't sell health insurance.

This is a set of steps that will give you the ability to reduce your healthcare and insurance costs by thousands of dollars every year, and will also help you be healthier as a result.

This book is for people who:
  • are Americans

  • want to lower their cost of health insurance

  • are interested in using holistic health practices, or alternative medicine

  • are interested in learning about Health Savings Accounts (HSA)

  • want to become healthier, as individuals or families

  • feel poorly served by current health insurance

If you're interested, please download the free e-Book by clicking here.

I hope you enjoy it!

Why You Often Don't Manifest What You Visualize


This has been a big question for me. Why don't I always manifest what I visualize? I can see that pile of cash or whatever, just sitting there, can imagine what I'll spend it on, but it doesn't come into reality. Why?

Steve Pavlina, who writes for the best personal development blog I've ever read, has an excellent perspective on it. He says that just by observing your current situation, being poor or overweight or lonely or whatever, you are reinforcing it.

And he has a great solution for this that he calls "creative observation."

Check out his blog by clicking here.

A New Approach to Natural Search Optimization


It makes a lot of sense to advertise your site using pay-per-click ads on sites like Google.

But, if you can get high placement with the "natural search results" on Google and others, that's even better.

This has been my current strategy. I've been using a free tool called Hittail from Connors Communication, a PR firm.

It allows me to see what people are searching for when they come to my site, then it does some analysis on those search phrases and categorizes them as to how important they are.

For instance, right now I'm seeing that the search phrase "Daryl Kulak" comes up a lot for people coming to my blog and Websites, but it is not important that I blog about "Daryl Kulak" because I'm already high in the rankings for that phrase (imagine that).

But, there are phrases like "holistic marketing" and "health savings account downside" that I should be blogging about, because those are terms where people came to my site, but I am quite low in the rankings on those ones.

I am really enjoying using Hittail. I'm glad it is a free service, and I'm thankful to Connors for providing it. Also, I really like Mike Levin's blog about Hittail, it's very informative and he updates it often. Hittail is a bit hard to understand, so I suggest you subscribe to his blog and let him teach you about it each day, a little at a time.

When you sign up, you will have to embed a code snippet in your blog or Website, so make sure you have the capability of doing that, or have your Webmaster take care of it.

It's Not Just Dell and Apple - Now Sony Vaios are Exploding

Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.com

Tech news site xgatech.com reports that a Sony Vaio has exploded...twice. Again, it seems like a battery problem that caused this laptop to burst into flames.

The Shawnee, Kansas owner was able to put out the fire with his fire extinguisher the first time, but when it blew up again, he called the fire department.

This means the battery explosion problems are not just limited to Dell and Apple. Please keep checking back to this blog for more updates, or go to Google and enter "laptop exploded" for more updates elsewhere.

Sony has NOT issued a recall on their own laptops at this time. It was a Sony-manufactured battery that caused the Dell and Apple problems, so it seems likely that Sony Vaio's could have problems also, especially after this incident.

Bill Maher is a Juicer


In Rolling Stone magazine this month, there is a feature article on Bill Maher, the comedian who hosts Real Time on HBO.

I was interested to find out that Bill is a very holistically-minded person. He juices daily, veggies and fruit, and takes care to eat right. He doesn't see Western doctors at all. It sounds like he goes to a naturopath, although he didn't say that specifically.

"Since I stopped seeing doctors, I never get sick, not even a cold."

This explains his fury at the pharmaceutical and fast food industries. It was a great article.

This is a link to the article online, however it is not the entire article, and it is missing the part where he discusses health.

Also, Real Time is back on the air as of tonight! I'm so happy. But I couldn't believe it when Bill's normally hysterical "New Rules" actually bombed. They were terrible. His ending monologue was on Pluto! Of all the pressing issues, he chooses Pluto?? And the rest of the jokes didn't go off well, either. I had trouble even cracking a smile, when usually I'm cracking up.

And Christopher Hitchens was a surprisingly lousy guest. Here is a guy who wrote a book on Thomas Jefferson. He started out by describing himself in the "Top 1% of the intellectual elite" and the proceeded to give the audience the finger THREE TIMES. Very intellectual.

Oh well, maybe new writers, or maybe Bill's a little rusty after so much time off.

I'm sure he'll be back in form next week.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Holistic Doctors in Columbus Ohio

Jan Offutt, MD

Hari Sharma, MD

Jacqueline Chan, DO

Yeah, we got 'em.

Holistically-minded doctors right here in Columbus, Ohio? No problem.

From the top:

Dr. Jann Offutt, MD
Hari Sharma, MD
Jacqueline Chan, DO

To find out more about these great doctors, who incorporate holistic healthcare into their everyday practices, please check out my book "Doctors of the Future."

Profiles of 11 Central Ohio physicians who use holistic healthcare and alternative medicine with their patients, their healing philosophies, the practices they use, the practices they refer out to, and the insurance programs they're covered under.

Plus, a phone number list of another 15 more holistic physicians (without the profiles) that didn't make the publishing deadline.

Holistic Holiday at Sea IV




This sounds really cool.

Castle Cruises is selling cabins on a cruise called "Holistic Holiday at Sea IV." This is a normal cruise on a big boat, but it has a variety of speakers and workshops.

What I found most interesting is that this is not a "Woo Woo" cruise with talk about fairies, angels, crystals and stuff like that.

No, the speakers are actually top notch researchers and doctors who you will learn a lot from. T. Colin Campbell, who has done some huge studies on nutrition in China, and Dr. Neal Barnard, the founder of Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Plus, lots of healthy food (on a cruise??), yoga classes, meditation, pilates - you name it. The cruise is sponsored by A Taste of Health.

Sounds like fun? The cruise is happening in March 2007, but you can book now.

Call Marci at Castle Cruises at 877.651.2250 or e-mail her at info@CastleCruises.com.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Amazing Television



I'm really enjoying the History Channel series "The Revolution" this month. It's so nice to hear these stories again. Particularly after reading "Burr," the book by Gore Vidal. Vidal's book was from the perspective of Burr, so it was very critical of Washington and Jefferson. This series is much less critical, of course, and it's nice to have that balance.

Anyway, love the series. Click here for details.

And, yes, I've been watching the damn thing on our tiny TV.

Dell and Apple Laptop Batteries Being Recalled

Dell and Apple laptop batteries, made
by Sony, have, on VERY RARE OCCASIONS,
exploded.

There is no need to panic.

But you should definitely look into whether
your particular laptop battery needs to be
recalled.

Pictures of the explosions are
here
and here:

For instructions on what to do, click the link below corresponding to your laptop brand:


For Apple


For Dell



Follow the instructions on the Website. Check
for your laptop's model number in the lists.

Please be patient, these Websites are
getting hit HARD, so you may get an
error message if their servers are too busy.

If that's the case, try the Website
again later.

The actual danger to you is very minimal,
there are only a few instances of actual
explosions, so just be patient.

This does not affect ALL Dell or Apple
laptops, so you just need to check if yours
is on the list.

Here is a USA Today story on this issue.

As I said, there is no need to panic or worry.
I just want you to go to these Websites and check
if your computer is involved in the recall.

I will be providing updates and answers to questions on this blog for all Simplicity Institute customers.

Check this blog periodically for the answers to questions
that I hear back from you.

Podcasts 27, 28 - Healthy Show Biz



Podcasts #27 and #28 are now up on the site at Holistic Health Nation. This is a two-part series of my chat with Robert Rickover, Webmaster of AlexanderTechnique.com and an Alexander Technique teacher.

We talk about what it's like to have an Alexander lesson, and how the Technique has helped many people, including musicians, singers and actors. We also discuss how the Technique can help anyone who isn't in one of those professions.

Click here to listen to Part I and Part II.

We had a great conversation.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Another Firefox Image You'll Like



Here's another Firefox image worth remembering. Yes, Firefox is "eating" into the market share of Microsoft's IE browser. I think current figures stand at around 10% market share for Firefox, up from nothing just a couple of years ago.

When I look at my own Websites, the Simplicity Institute Website has 7% Firefox visitors, Health Insurance Off the Grid has 17% Firefox, and Bikini Guru has 11% Firefox. And those numbers have been steadily increasing too, which validates the overall picture we've been seeing.

Many technology Websites and podcasts say that they get about 50% Firefox visitors, which tells me that the technology people are ahead of the curve and advising their own customers, family and friends to switch.

So let me just throw in my two cents. If you are still using Microsoft Internet Explorer as your browser, STOP IMMEDIATELY! Download Firefox (or anything else!) and start using it. IE is too dangerous to use, even the U.S. Government has warned against it!!

NOTE: The link to the U.S. government warning is not a hoax. And even though that warning was issued more than two years ago, do not believe anyone who tells you IE has been fixed since then and that there's no problem. There is still a problem. I have heard that the newest IE version under Windows Vista (unreleased version of Windows coming up in 2007) may fix the problems, but for now, it is still not safe to use IE.

And for e-mail, nobody should be using Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express. Use Thunderbird instead, or, if you're on a Mac, use Macintosh Mail, which comes with Mac OS X.

Oh, The Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth...

Well, our venerable projection TV bit the dust this past weekend.

It's a Toshiba Theatreview. It's been a great TV for almost ten years, but this past weekend the TV just wouldn't start up and the power light was flashing red. Looking it up in the discussion boards, it sounds like it's the power protection circuit, and it will be a costly repair - $300-400.

As you can see, we've adlibbed our little TV on top of the big one for now. How trailer park!!



Actually, we are both secretly hoping it costs a lot to repair, so we can just go out and buy a new flat screen plasma screen and hang it on the wall. Does that make us bad people?

UPDATE: The service man came and fixed it. Here are the details. We're up and running again. By the way, the forum posting above was not correct in our case. The power protection circuit was fine.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Oregon State University Students Create a Firefox Crop Circle

The Linux User Group at Oregon State University painstakingly created this beautiful crop circle in the shape of the Firefox browser logo. How creative!!




UPDATE: Here's a link to a "behind the scenes" video of how the crop circle was made. See the magic!

Miracle II and Poison Ivy

This guy posted a testimonial about how he applied Miracle II to poison ivy on his arms and photographed the healing.

If the dates are true, this happened really fast! I know when I got poison ivy a few years ago, it got worse and worse for about six weeks before it let up and started to heal. This guy had good results within a week, and within three weeks it was totally gone.

What's really interesting to me is that, in the story, he explains that they didn't have any Miracle II so they had to order it and wait for it to arrive by mail. I wonder what would have happened if he had applied Miracle II right away??

Here are the photos if you're interested. Click the photos to see the original story.



If you're interested in finding out more about Miracle II products, click here.

NOTE: I have not been paid to provide this information. The link takes you to a Miracle II online store run by my friend Steve Heimlich. I don't receive any money from Steve or another else.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Ayurvedic Practitioners in Cincinnati Ohio

A friend of mine happened to send out a e-mail to lots of people asking for ayurvedic practitioners in her home town, Cincinnati. She was kind enough to collate the information and send it back to all of us, so I'm posting it here for my blog readers.

-------------------------

Dr. Vijay Jain, M.D., has had a successful General Surgery Practice in Greater Cincinnati for the past 27 years. He has studied mind/body medicine with Dr. Deepak Chopra, M.D; Ayurvedic Medicine with Dr. Sunil Joshi, M.D. Nagpur, India; and has taken courses in Integrative Medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil in Tucson, Arizona. For the past 10 years, in addition to his Surgery practice in Lake Cumberland area, Dr Jain lectures on Ayurvedic Principles and Practices and how to create Optimal Health based on those principles.


Mercy Fairfield
1251 Nilles Road - Suite 6
Fairfield/Cincinnati, OH 45014
(513) 829-2123
Press 1 - Center for Holistic Healing and Ayurvedics

------------------------

Cincinnati Yoga School has a yoga therapist who is trained in Ayurveda. She teaches on Mondays at 5:45pm

11130 Kenwood Rd.
Corner of Kenwood & Cornell,
Blue Ash, Ohio 45242, USA
513-247-9642 Phone
513-247-0078 Fax
Email: info@cincyoga.com

------------------------

Sia Spa (SIA stands for South Indian Ayurveda) offer Ayurvedic spa services.
8127 Montgomery Road
Cincinnati, OH 45236
513-985-0777
Email: info@siaspas.com

------------------------

Carrie Demers, M.D., Medical Director of The Himalayan Institute’s Center for Health & Healing. A holistic physician, board certified in internal medicine, she received her medical degree from the University of Cincinnati, and completed her residency at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. Doctor Demers is also trained in homeopathy, Ayurveda, and yoga, and blends modern medicine with traditional approaches. She lectures on holistic health across the United States, and is a featured columnist for Yoga International magazine.

952 Bethany Turnpike
Honesdale, PA 18431
Phone: 570-253-5551 ext. 3100
Fax: 570-253-4164
Email: chh@himalayaninstitute.org

------------------------

Anjula Brannon. She is not an MD, but is very well trained in Ayurveda. She is the founder of the Ayurveda Natural Health Center.

1342 N Fairfield Rd
Dayton/Beavercreek OH 45432
(937) 429-9355
Email: Ayurveda429WELL@sbcglobal.net

------------------------

Dr. John Peterson. He is very good, and draws patients from around the country. He is very good at Ayurvedic pulse diagnosis.

Muncie, Indiana
765-282-7475

------------------------

Dr. Hari Sharma, M.D. Dr. Sharma is also author of Awakening Nature's Healing Intelligence, The Answer to Cancer: Is Never Giving It a Chance to Start, Awakening Nature's Healing Intelligence
Columbus, OH
614-879-7898

------------------------

Shama Chavan, M.D, B.A.M.S.
In the Clifton area
Cincinnati, OH 45220
Phone: 513.861.1353 / 513.237.4937
Email: chavanshama@yahoo.com

------------------------

Sujatha Reddy, B.A.M.S.
B.A.M.S., Bangalore University, Karnataka, India, 1988
M.S., Community Counseling, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH, USA, 2005
PC Professional Counselor, Ohio, USA, 2006
Sujatha Reddy graduated from the Govt. College of Indian Medicine in Bangalore, India in the year 1988. She came to the United States in 1989 and has been practicing Ayurveda since. Sujatha Reddy also trained under Dr. Vasant Lad, a renowned Ayurvedic practioner and teacher for Pulse Diagnosis, at the Ayurvedic Institute in the year 2002. Sujatha Reddy started her Masters program in Community Counseling in the year 2002. She graduated from the University of Dayton in 2005. She passed her National Counselor Exam and was licensed as a mental health counselor for the state of Ohio in May 2006. She practices mental health counseling parallel to Ayurveda. Her Ayurvedic expertise includes pulse diagnosis, dietetics and cooking, nutritional herbs and spices, women’s health concerns, musculoskeletal problems, skin diseases, allergies, Ayurvedic mental and physical health. She also specializes in Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counseling and Domestic Violence Counseling.

New Albany, OH 43054
Phone: 614.939.0265
Email: sureddy0@lycos.com

------------------------

Peter Sheng, M.D., OMD. While Dr. Sheng is not an Ayurvedic practitioner, he is a Chinese trained Oriental Medical Doctor. He is also board certified in oncology. Half is practice is oncology and the other half is general practice, using Chinese medicine.
Natural Healing Arts
8220 Northcreek Dr.
Kenwood, OH
(513) 528-2900
Email: jasmin11055@yahoo.com
http://www.petersheng.com/

A Cross-Reference of Health Conditions to Herbs and Homeopathic Remedies

I found this great directory of healing herbs, vitamins and homeopathic remedies which links them to particular health conditions.

It's a part of the PCC Natural Markets Website. This is a health food store chain in Washington state. My guess is that it's some syndicated content from somewhere, but it really is comprehensive. I mean, Wow!

I guess what blows me away is how many studies and articles they cite for each condition and/or remedy. It's dozens! For insomnia, there are 41 articles and peer-reviewed journal entries listed. For arthritis, 114 listed! I had no idea there was such a complete resource available for us online, for free! How friggin' cool...

Here's the link. Take a look. Pick a health condition, and see what natural remedies apply. Or, pick a remedy, and see what conditions it's helpful for.

Our favorite local health food store in Westerville, Raisin Rack, has a similar listing, syndicated from a different source. It's good too.

And if you want a directory that has herbs and drugs, and that focuses a lot on herb-drug interactions, DrugDigest is for you.

I have no idea of the authority of these Websites, but my impression is that they are very good. Well laid out, easy to navigate, and not overly biased towards Western medicine as the "only way to go" like WebMD.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Detailed, Critical Look at Procter and Gamble Pharmaceuticals and the FDA

You will really enjoy this blog. It's written by Aubrey Blumsohn, a professor at Sheffield University in Britain, who claims that P&G messed with his research.

I came across this very critical blog concerning Procter and Gamble Pharmaceuticals. It is incredibly detailed and goes into exactly what is going on at this Big Pharma company (did you know P&G did drugs? I didn't). It also examines the cozy relationship between Big Pharma and the FDA.

This guy has written letters to P&G and also posts the responses he gets. He goes into how the FDA accepts all kinds of funny data when it comes to drugs, but then goes ape-shit on fairly harmless non-drug products.

I highly recommend that you take a look at this blog - Scientific Misconduct. What I sometimes do with long blog posts is I print them out and then I read them while I'm standing in line at the post office or whatever.

Let me know what you think of this blog.

The story of Aubrey's ordeal with Sheffield University and P&G was documented at Slate magazine in 2005.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Podcast #26 - Retrospective I

I just released the latest podcast for Holistic Health Nation. It is a look back at my previous 25 shows, the interviews and the music.

I plan to do this every 25 shows or so. It's fun because I give updates on what has happened since those interviews, which in some cases is a LOT. For instance, the Campus President of Tri-C (Cuyahoga Community College) who I interviewed way back when is now gone from the college but we're still continuing the holistic programs without him (for now at least).

Click here to listen to the show.

I love doing these podcasts! (This is surprising, because usually I get bored of something after this long.)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Jon Barron Talks about the Current State of the FDA

The following is from Jon Barron's e-mail newsletter. If you're not already subscribed, I encourage you to sign up by clicking here.

El Guapo and the FDA

Jon Barron

There is a great scene in the movie, The Three Amigos, in which Chevy Chase talks about the villain, El Guapo. "I suppose you could say that everyone has an El Guapo. For some, shyness may be an El Guapo. For others, lack of education may be an El Guapo. But for us, El Guapo is a large ugly man who wants to kill us!"

Just swap out the name El Guapo for FDA and you have the theme of this week's newsletter. It doesn't matter what country you live in, you have an El Guapo/FDA-type regulatory authority promoting questionable pharmaceutical solutions while at the same time limiting your access to far safer alternatives. Here in the US, our FDA is the actual FDA, a large ugly agency that despite its best efforts sometimes seems to be trying to kill us.

FDA isn't doing its job

A recent article in the Washington Post once again brings home the point that FDA approval (heck, any government approval) does not guarantee safety. It also makes it clear that approved pharmaceuticals, over the counter medication, medical devices, and even food products are not what you think they are!

This article highlights the findings of a 15-month-long reactionary investigation of the FDA following the flu vaccine shortage. In the process of their investigation, however, investigators documented profound and disturbing indications of much more far-reaching and deep-seated problems.

While the motivation for the investigation was undoubtedly political, the results are inarguable. First, consider the trends:

In the past 5 years the number of warning letters that the Food and Drug Administration issued to drug companies, medical device makers, etc. dropped 54 percent to 535 in 2005 from 1,154 in 2000.
The seizure of mislabeled, defective and dangerous products dipped 44 percent.
The biggest decline was found at the agency's device center, where enforcement actions decreased 65 percent in the five-year period of the study despite a wave of problems with devices including implantable defibrillators and pacemakers.

The most disturbing indicator in these statistics is that the research found no evidence that such declines could be attributed to increased compliance with regulations. Investigators at the FDA continued to uncover about the same number of problems at drug and device companies during the study as during comparable time periods before the study. The inquiry found instead that top officials at the FDA increasingly overruled the investigators' enforcement recommendations.

In fact, the only rise in percentages was found in the number of products that had to be recalled from the market after approval by the FDA: up 44 percent.

Some might argue about the ultimate meaning of these statistics; but at the very least, they are the proverbial canary in the coal mine giving warning of severe problems lurking in the background. Before we can understand what those problems are, though, we need to understand how we got ourselves into this predicament.

What is the FDA?

The FDA was designed as an "intelligent, necessary regulatory agency or 'watchdog' for Foods and Drugs." Sounds simple, yet the size and scope of this job is a tangible example of eyes being bigger than the stomach.

To give you an idea of the monumental task the FDA faces, consider that 'Food and Drug' has been broken into 8 categories, each with a number of subcategories:

Food
Foodborne Illness, Nutrition, Dietary Supplements...
Drugs
Prescription, Over-the-Counter, Generic...
Medical Devices
Pacemakers, Contact Lenses, Hearing Aids...
Biologics
Vaccines, Blood Products...
Animal Feed and Drugs
Livestock, Pets...
Cosmetics
Safety, Labeling...
Radiation-Emitting Products
Cell Phones, Lasers, Microwaves…
Combination Products
Any combination of the above categories...

Considering such a monumental task, the health environment has definitely benefited in some areas. Since the FDA's inception, instances of food poisoning, for example, have decreased dramatically. Understand, not everything the FDA touches is bad; not everyone who works for the FDA is a villain.

To be fair, there are many, many good, conscientious people working for the FDA. I've talked to a number of them. (It's not hard. They're available to you if call up. Most are very nice.) The problem is that the nice people don't really control the agenda. The reality is that in many ways, the FDA follows the same bell curve that I talked about in Why Your Doctors Do You Like They Do, June 21, 2004. Let me illustrate:

At the bottom of the curve, particularly out in the field, there are a handful of petty bureaucrats -- little people who sit behind very big desks -- people who get off on wielding power and intimidating anyone who crosses their path. (Most of us have met this type of individual at least once in our lives.)

In the middle, and comprising the biggest part of the curve by far, are the hardworking, conscientious people trying to do the best they can. Some are open minded, and some religiously follow the party line -- but all are trying to do the best they can, and in their way protect consumers.

At the executive level, there are some very bright people, but unfortunately, too many, as you will see, who are either negotiating their next job in the pharmaceutical industry or who have just arrived from there to work at the FDA. You can't have a relationship between a multi-billion dollar industry and the people entrusted to oversee it, and not expect, given enough time, to see people crossing the line.

That said, let me restate that there is trouble afoot. So let's take a closer look at what is going on (or going wrong) at the FDA.

FDA Missteps

On July 20th, the Union of Concerned Scientists published the results of a survey of just under 1,000 doctors who work for the FDA. The results were disturbing:

Almost one in five (18 percent) responded, "I have been asked, for non-scientific reasons, to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information or my conclusions in an FDA scientific document."

More than three in five (61 percent) knew of cases in which "Department of Health and Human Services or FDA political appointees have inappropriately injected themselves into FDA determinations or actions."

Three in five (60 percent) also knew of cases "where commercial interests have inappropriately induced or attempted to induce the reversal, withdrawal or modification of FDA determinations or actions."

Fifty percent also felt that non-governmental interests (such as advocacy groups) had induced or attempted to induce such changes.

Less than half of them (49 percent) agreed that "FDA leadership is as committed to product safety as it is to bringing products to the market."

And that's just the tip of the iceberg! To see all of the profoundly disturbing results check out the complete survey.

Another glaring example of conflict of interest affecting health decisions at the FDA can be found in the history of Aspartame, which was approved for use in foods by Dr. Arthur Hull Hayes, the former Commissioner of the FDA, two months before retiring. Shortly after leaving the FDA, he accepted a position as Senior Medical Advisor to Aspartame's public relations firm at the rate of $1,000 per day. You can read details in my newsletter, The FDA and Government Regulators.

More Conflicts of Interest

The example of Dr. Hayes above is not isolated. Many FDA managers have conflicts of interest from holding stock in the pharmaceutical industries they are entrusted to regulate to holding jobs at these same pharmaceutical companies either before they work for the FDA or, as with Dr. Hayes, immediately after. Yes, top FDA officials frequently end up with top paying positions at the very same drug companies they were entrusted to regulate. Does this automatically mean that these positions are improper or that "improper" decisions were made as a result? No, of course not. But sometimes the appearance of impropriety is so overwhelming, it's more than enough to convict.

Consider too that the FDA admits this failure.

In a July 25th article, the FDA issued a preemptory mea culpa: FDA Pledges Conflict Reforms: The agency says it will clarify rules on advisory panel members with ties to drug companies. But a quick review of these proposed reforms makes it clear that they are unlikely to stop many doctors and researchers with such conflicts from serving on the panels whose recommendations can determine the fate of drugs that may be worth millions of dollars in corporate profits -- but that may endanger consumers at the same time.

Looking back at the Vioxx fiasco, for example, the Center for Science in the Public Interest evaluated the 32 scientific experts chosen by the FDA to evaluate Vioxx and its brother Cox-2 inhibitor drugs. The CSPI research uncovered affiliations between 10 of the scientists that served on the committee and the three manufacturers of Cox-2 inhibitors (Pfizer, Merck and Novartis -- including G.D. Searle and Pharmacia, which are now part of Pfizer). According to a New York Times analysis of the votes, the advisory committee would have voted against Bextra and Vioxx staying on the market had scientists with conflicts of interest been excluded from the vote.

The FDA has about 50 advisory panels that are supposed to provide impartial technical advice on issues such as over-the-counter allergy medicines, silicone breast implants, and chemotherapy drugs with toxic side effects. A study published this year found that 28% of panel members disclosed financial conflicts, but only 1% recused themselves.

In case you are wondering, here are the FDA's current guidelines for waivers.

Drug companies are doing their own safety testing!

If all we were talking about was conflict of interest, that would be bad enough; but the problem goes much deeper.

While the world is still dealing with the aftermath of the Vioxx scandal, let us keep in mind that this specific (highly publicized) situation is actually representative of a pervasive problem. Drug companies have been given too much of a role in defining their own approval process -- controlling everything from the drug safety information used to evaluate their products to lab safety information used by the FDA.

Drug safety

The drama surfacing at the FDA concerning drug safety issues plays out much like a movie of the week as accusations fly and tempers flare. Trust is given and taken away, and the ultimate victims of this drama are the consumers. A July 19, 2006, article in Newstarget.com highlights that not much has changed since the Vioxx experience as the safety of a new antibiotic approved by the FDA was challenged by Dr. David Graham. As Dr. Graham says, "For F.D.A. to refer to its being reassured by postmarketing data from Latin America and Europe as a basis for declaring 'Ketek is safe' is, in my opinion, a great abuse of such surveillance data."

Vioxx, Keretek, or any of a number of other pharmaceuticals, it doesn't seem to matter. It case after case, FDA executives deem scientific data gathered by their own researchers to be irrelevant and biased data gathered by the pharmaceutical companies themselves all-persuasive. Again, has anything improper occurred? Not necessarily. But then again, sometimes the appearance of impropriety rises so high, it becomes its own proof.

Lab safety

As I mentioned above, the FDA out-sources the inspection of pharmaceutical laboratories -- sometimes to employees of the lab itself. An article in the New York Times describes how even if government inspectors have found widespread problems in a pharmaceutical factory, the Food and Drug Administration sometimes approves new medicines to be made in that factory without inspecting it again, relying on company employees or consultants to verify that the problems have been fixed.

The practice came to light after a trade journal called Dickinson's FDA Webview reported that the F.D.A. had approved Clarinex, the allergy drug made by Schering-Plough, based on factory inspections done by consultants hired by the company rather than by the government. How can you possibly have any confidence in the certification of a lab when that certification was bought and paid for by the company that had a financial interest in seeing that certification go through?

Inaccurate Labels

We are taught as consumers to read and to trust the labels on products. We are told to use these labels as guides to improve our health and nutrition and, in some cases, our safety. The very definition of the term 'label' implies an accurate disclosure of ingredients. But if you were to rely exclusively on FDA approved labels you might be dangerously misled. As explained in another New York Times article, Medicine's Data Gap, when it comes to a drug's "government-approved uses," FDA labeling regulations give doctors important data from clinical tests involving those treatments while spelling out the drug's risks and providing directions for administering it to patients. But FDA regulations have allowed labels to remain silent about a test when the FDA turns down a company's application for approval of a new use or a new patient group. In those situations, the company can then promote that drug for its rejected off-label use with no requirement for full disclosure.

And it's no better for food labels. A recent announcement by the FDA stated that it had checked 28,000 food labels in a 14 month period, however, it failed to mention that they had merely checked to see if labels were present -- not if they were accurate.

As CSPI senior staff attorney, Ilene Ringel Heller, said concerning this issue, "The FDA's report obfuscates the Agency's abdication of its responsibility to ensure honest food labeling by touting irrelevant statistics concerning routine Agency inspection activities. The FDA has been less than forthright with Congress."

Summary

I could go on for several hundred pages citing case after case, incident after incident, but I still want to cover the second key issue in this newsletter: the FDA's failure when it comes to dealing with alternative health. For now, suffice it to quote from Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD. "This agency has been politicized and degraded. Many FDA employees don't feel the FDA is doing enough to protect the public's health and are afraid to speak candidly about it."

Can the FDA turn itself around and do a reasonable job at regulating pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices? Absolutely, if:

It had an expanded budget.
It was more limited in scope.
It completely separated itself and its personnel from the companies they regulate.
If pigs could fly.
How this relates to alternative medicine

At the top of this newsletter I said, "It doesn't matter what country you live in, you have an El Guapo/FDA-type regulatory authority promoting questionable pharmaceutical solutions while at the same time limiting your access to far safer alternatives."

In the time we have left, let's deal with the second half of this statement: the part about the FDA limiting your access to alternative health.

I could give you all kinds of obvious bias in this area, but probably no example is more obvious than testing, the great sine qua non of the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry. These tests are important because government regulators such as the FDA make their decisions based on these tests. It's the big knock held against all alternative health treatments. Pharmaceutical drugs are rigorously tested. Alternative health programs are based on anecdotal evidence and when tested, consistently fail those tests. The list is endless.

Vitamin E failed testing
http://www.jonbarron.org/newsletters/news041112.htm
http://www.jonbarron.org/newsletters/news050314.htm

Echinacea has failed testing
http://www.jonbarron.org/newsletters/news031208.htm
http://www.jonbarron.org/newsletters/news050801.htm
http://www.jonbarron.org/newsletters/news060227.htm

Antioxidants have failed testing

The Antioxidant Myth

And the list goes on.


But this is a crock. As we've already seen in this newsletter, the tests that pharmaceutical drugs pass are hardly bullet proof, and in fact, as we've seen, are often misleading. On the other hand, the tests that alternative health treatments fail are almost always fatally flawed.

Check out the links above on vitamin E and Echinacea.

Why does this happen? Because as has been made abundantly clear in this newsletter, the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry work closely together:

Sharing personnel.
Taking each other's word on test results.
Getting paid by one entity while working for the other.
Owning stock in one entity while working for the other.
Asking the FDA to be unbiased while monitoring alternative health is like asking the National Football League owners to oversee the future of professional world soccer (that's real football for everyone outside the US). Consider that:

The NFL owners don't understand soccer.

They don't like it.

At best they view it as irrelevant. At worst as an economic rival.

In the best of all possible worlds, they would much rather that it just go away and that everyone in the world watched the NFL.

And thus we have the position of the FDA and their partners, the pharmaceutical industry, when it comes to alternative health.

They don't understand it.

They don't like it.

At best they view it as irrelevant. At worst as an economic rival.

In the best of all possible worlds, they would much rather that it just go away, that anyone involved would just go to jail, and that everyone in the world would fall into line and see their doctor and take a drug for every conceivable condition known to man -- plus those conditions soon to be created by the drug companies' marketing arms.

In effect, the unofficial position of the FDA is that "alternative health" is a contradiction in terms.

Conclusion: take responsibility for own health

Awareness is the key. Most people spend more time taking care of their cars than they do their bodies. You only get one body (this lifetime anyway) and no owner's manual, no warranty and (for the most part) no spare parts. With all the trouble the FDA is having regulating Food, Drugs, Medical Devices, Biologics, Animal Feed and Drugs, Cosmetics, and Radiation Emitting Products, it is imperative that you pay attention to your own body and your own health. In this newsletter I have raised several questions:

Is the FDA doing its job if drug safety issues are not tightly regulated without bias?

Is the FDA doing its job if employees profit from the same agencies they are trusted to regulate?

Is the FDA doing its job if they do not follow up or follow through when problems are found?

Is the FDA doing its job if the food and drug labels Americans are told to trust are not accurate?

Is the FDA doing its job if it dismisses alternative health solutions out of hand with support for biased testing and harassment of practitioners?

The answer of course is a resounding NO!

Remember, FDA approval does not guarantee safety. And as I have said in many previous newsletters, while pharmaceuticals have their place in health care, as a general rule, they should always be the choice of last resort.

Finally, and I cannot emphasize this enough, the FDA should not play any role in regulating alternative medicine. A separate regulating agency that at least has a feel for the discipline needs to be in charge. Far better for the FDA to gets its house in order, work with a more limited scope, and start doing a good and honest job regulating the medical industry.

And for those of you outside the US, don't be smug. Remember you have your own El Guapos -- in most cases even worse than the FDA. Just look at the European Health Initiative and Codex or how Canada treats naturally occurring substances such as DMAE as drugs or Australia's brand new rules requiring massive amounts of documentation for the importation of even the most innocuous natural health supplements. Don't think for one moment that what happens in the US with the FDA doesn't matter to you, or that what happens in your country vis a vis alternative health regulation doesn't matter to those of us in the US. It most assuredly does. To paraphrase Ben Franklin: "We must all stand together (regarding our health rights), or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Addendum

While writing this newsletter, I was contacted by Hummingbird Pictures about their new documentary, Money Talks: Profits Before Patient Safety. This documentary addresses a number of issues specifically covered in this newsletter. What's even better, Hummingbird has put an extremely informative 8 minute trailer of the film online. Check it out. Note: since it is an 8 minute clip, it does take a couple of minutes to load, even on broadband.

http://www.moneytalksthemovie.com/thefilm/trailer.html

Drink This Instead of Soda Pop


Okay, yes, I used to drink pop all the time. Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Root Beer, Ginger Ale - you name it. I like the taste of pop. I like the sweetness. The fizziness is okay, but I could do without that aspect.

Over the past few years, however, I've found out a lot that's bad about soda. The high fructose corn syrup does a tap dance on my blood sugar levels. The phosphoric acid is a harmful chemical. The sodium levels are high, adding to water retention, etc.

So I quit drinking soda. Totally. If I have 3 sodas a year, that's a lot.

What to substitute though? Soda does taste really good, so what is a sweet drink without all the sugar, sodium, etc. Basically, I want a sweetened, no calorie water.

Forget about the high priced "flavored waters."

Here is my solution.

I buy Sweet Leaf liquids in various flavors. I add a few drops to a big glass of water. And I have it! No calories. No sodium. Just water.

Sweet Leaf liquids contain stevia. Stevia is a plant that grows in South America (but actually can thrive here in the U.S. too) that has very sweet leaves. Incredibly sweet. So, if you take an extract from those leaves, put it in a liquid, you have a sweetener that makes a lot of sense.

No sugar. No calories. Zero aftertaste. (If your stevia has aftertaste, you're using the wrong stevia.) Nothing bad at all.

But there's more to stevia.

It is actually anti-viral and anti-bacterial. If you have a cut, you can put stevia concentrate (not the same as the sweetener liquid) on the cut and it will not get infected and will heal more quickly. Likewise, you can take stevia concentrate (again, this is not the sweetener liquid that I use) and spray it on your throat to inhibit a sore throat.

Sound good? It does to me too. The little bottles are very expensive - about $18 for a 2 ounce bottle. But, you have to take into consideration that you use about 15-20 drops in a big glass of water, so that costs you about a total of 40-50 cents per drink. Very comparable to soda costs (if you buy in bulk) and yet much, much better for your health.

Learn more about stevia at the Sweet Leaf Website. And you can buy the stuff online here.

(I'm not being paid by Sweet Leaf or anyone else to say all this.)

For some "not so good" studies on the manmade chemical sweetener Splenda, click here.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Being a Professional

Here are a set of ideals from a Website called "Tips for Success" on what it means to be a professional.

See for yourself if these apply or not. I've added my comments in italics.


A professional learns every aspect of the job. An amateur skips the learning process whenever possible. This includes the skills of marketing, sales and business admin in your business.

A professional carefully discovers what is needed and wanted. An amateur assumes what others need and want. This is a process of experimentation. You are constantly searching what what people want, and determining if it is changing.

A professional looks, speaks and dresses like a professional. An amateur is sloppy in appearance and speech. This does NOT necessarily mean business suits or uniforms. It needs to fit what you are embodying in your practice. If you are a reiki master, it might mean wearing a long flowing, tie-died robe.

A professional keeps his or her work area clean and orderly. An amateur has a messy, confused or dirty work area. Yeah, I know this is true, but I have a hard time keeping my papers in order. I've resolved to get better at this. Will you try too?

A professional is focused and clear-headed. An amateur is confused and distracted. Focus is so important. My students in the classes call it the "F" word.

A professional does not let mistakes slide by. An amateur ignores or hides mistakes. I agree. Hiding mistakes is a big problem, even if you're just hiding them from yourself.

A professional jumps into difficult assignments. An amateur tries to get out of difficult work. This is a very interesting thing to notice about yourself. I'm good at fooling myself that I "just didn't have time to get started on that thing," but in reality, I am totally avoiding it because it's hard.

A professional completes projects as soon as possible. An amateur is surrounded by unfinished work piled on unfinished work. Again, this is something I struggle with. I know it's right though.

A professional remains level-headed and optimistic. An amateur gets upset and assumes the worst. I agree.

A professional handles money and accounts very carefully. An amateur is sloppy with money or accounts. Intention and money are closely linked. I had one coaching client who was able to change her intention about money overnight and almost doubled her income in the process. This is an amazing thing. By working on your finances, you are applying your intention to them.

A professional faces up to other people’s upsets and problems. An amateur avoids others’ problems. So important.

A professional uses higher emotional tones: Enthusiasm, cheerfulness, interest, contentment. An amateur uses lower emotional tones: anger, hostility, resentment, fear, victim. Yes, I agree. This sets your vibrational level, as written about in the book Power Versus Force.

A professional persists until the objective is achieved. An amateur gives up at the first opportunity. Persistence. No small business owner can have success without this personality trait..

A professional produces more than expected. An amateur produces just enough to get by. True.


If you're interested in reading the whole article, click here for the details.

Friday, August 11, 2006

What Type of Doctor Should I See Using HSA Money?

You can withdraw money from your Health Savings Account (HSA) to visit an MD, DO or a chiropractor.

Since you will be writing a check or using your debit card to pay for these visits at the time of service, you will really notice how much it costs. Since you have a high-deductible health insurance policy (a must for an HSA), you will be spending HSA money for the first thousand or more dollars every year. It will hurt!

Because of this, you may decide to look around. You might decide that it is cheaper and still effective to visit a naturopath, a type of doctor who specializes in using natural remedies instead of drugs or surgery. These doctors typically charge less and spend much more time with their patients, often more than one hour per appointment.

Or you may still want to stick with an MD. If you do, you may decide to use a particular kind of MD.

Certain MDs have been “opting out” of the health insurance business completely. They refuse to take any patients who want them to process health insurance claims. They focus only on patients who pay “at the time of service.”

If you are using HSA money, that’s you! You are paying at the time of service, using your HSA dollars.

Here’s what’s wonderful about these kinds of doctors. Their fees are much lower. Much, much lower.

Why? Because they don’t have to wrangle with insurance companies day in and day out. They can cut their administrative staff down to just one receptionist and one nurse. All the other paperwork jockies who filled out forms and made phone calls to insurance companies aren’t needed anymore.

You can expect that an “opted-out” doctor might actually charge you only $80 for a half-hour visit. (This is just my estimation. The cost of an actual doctor visit could vary.) That’s right, I said a half-hour. Once doctors are free from insurance restrictions, they often choose to spend much more time with their patients. They can really ask all the right questions and get down to the true health problems you’re suffering.

Sound great? Good!

The best way to find an “opted-out” doctor is to start calling around to doctors in your area and ask what insurance they take. If they say “We don’t take any insurance” you know you’ve found an opted-out doctor. Also, you can check your local holistic health publications, often available at libraries, coffee shops, health food stores and holistic centers.

Another method might be to call the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine at 202-686-2210 or the American Holistic Medical Association at www.holisticmedicine.org and use their “Doctor Finder.”

Health Savings Accounts will change how we think of health insurance. They are a wonderful tool that almost every American can and should benefit from. And they're available today!

Daryl Kulak is the author of the book "Health Insurance Off the Grid - A Wonderful Way to Use Alternative Medicine and Save Money on Insurance Using the New Health Savings Account (HSA)." The book provides a nine-step plan to get your individual health insurance costs under control using a unique approach you won't find anywhere else. The book is available for sale as an e-Book or paperback at the Website http://www.healthoffthegrid.com

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