Monday, February 27, 2006

Authoritative Sources

In order to have an organized society, it makes sense to have "experts" in an area. Health, let's say.

So, when issues about health come up, you go to the health experts. They give their opinions, they lead research on health issues, and they say what's good for your health and what's bad. And you believe them.

But what happens when this group of experts is contaminated? What happens when they begin bending their opinions of what's good or bad based on who pays the most? This is a well-known effect in all areas of expertise called "regulatory capture." It's when people who make decisions in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for instance, take high-paying jobs with the very companies they decided issues for/against.

This spells trouble.

And, unfortunately, the FDA is contaminated by dirty money. The FDA made decisions to bring products like Vioxx onto the market, despite volumes of evidence showing that Vioxx caused heart attacks. Once Merck took Vioxx off the market, the FDA decided it would be okay to bring it back, all based purely on a "pay for play" mentality.

There is no question that the FDA is corrupted.

But the question we have before us is this: What do we do? If we can no longer trust "the experts" who do we trust? Do we move to a system of "ask your pal" where everyone and no one is an expert? Or do we set up a new panel of experts, as easily corruptible as the first?

There is no easy answer. Your comments are welcome.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Inspired by Linspire

What if there was an operating system that just didn't get viruses?

What if you had something that looked and acted like Microsoft Windows, but didn't cost as much?

What if it was an operating system that would run on your existing computer - desktop or laptop?

It exists.

It's called Linspire. Linspire is a version of Linux that is meant to look as close to Windows as legally possible (it was originally called Lindows, for chrissakes). They've built this wonderful system, are selling it for cheap ($60), and almost all the applications can be purchased for a price of $20/year. That's $20 for the year to purchase whatever applications you want - the "all you can eat" model. Myself, I try to hold back at the buffet, but with Linspire, I just keep piling those applications on the plate. I love it!

The applications you can buy for the $20/year are many that you haven't heard of. Most of the are open source software. (Note: If you don't know what open source is, you haven't been reading my blog!)

So, you can't just pick up Microsoft Office, but you get the almost identical OpenOffice (file format compatible). You can't buy Adobe Photoshop, but you can easily get Gimp, which gives you feature-for-feature an equivalent experience.

The only person who should stay away from Linspire is the one who uses a special piece of software that only works on Windows. For instance, many naturopaths use an electro-dermal screening (EDS) system that only works on Microsoft Windows. Folks, you're stuck! Unless, you want to run your office computer on Windows and switch to Linspire at home.

Also, I don't recommend that you use the download-version of Linspire. Go to the computer store and get it on CD (or order it from their Website). I had lots of trouble getting the downloaded version to install (and another person I asked also had difficulties).

Give it a try. If you're unsure, get the Linspire demo disk and try it out. Or, if you're in the market for a new computer, get Linspire pre-installed at K-mart, Wal-mart or Koobox. Since Linspire is so much cheaper than Windows, these stores can sell these computer for between $300-400 easily (no monitor).

Oh -- and plug-and-play with your hardware? Fuhgettaboutit. I had no problems with my hardware, including my ancient wireless LAN cards to connect to my wireless network at home.

You owe it to yourself to try this operating system. I am writing this message on an Apple Macintosh, of which there are two in my house. The rest are Linspire (that includes 4 laptops).

Are Medical Boards Outdated??

Okay, so I'm still on my rant from the previous post...

This thing about "you must fit into MY concept of medicine or else you're crazy" has an even more ominous downside for society.

If medical boards are acting this way (and they certainly are in Ohio), they are actually instruments to SLOW DOWN THE PROGRESS OF MEDICINE.

If the members of a board need to be able to fit each new type of medicine they hear about into their own concept of what medicine IS, then anything that is truly NEW, that shakes the foundations of our current ideas, will be fought by the boards and most of the new ideas will be defeated by the status quo.

Isn't this a shame? I've heard that science progresses one funeral at a time, but it is really a crime for medical science to operate this way, because people will die at the hands at the status quo. People who could be helped by new types of medicine (or ancient types of medicine revisited), will stay sick or die, and the status quo will make sure that there is basically a news blackout and an advertising blackout on the remedies that could very well save people's lives.

And that stinks.

Any ideas on ways we could replace the medical boards with something more up-to-date?

Practical Medicine Versus Conceptual Medicine

Is it really holistic medicine versus Western medicine?

Or is it practical medicine versus conceptual medicine?

Here's what brought this on for me.

There are (at least) two investigations of holistic practitioners going on right now in Ohio. The first I'm most aware of is my naturopath. She uses natural remedies, like herbs, dietary changes, etc. - to help me and the rest of her patients. No drugs, no surgery - she's not qualified nor would she want to do those things. If they're needed, she refers us to medical doctors.

She's being investigated by the Dietetics Board of Ohio. They're trying to prove that she is "practicing dietetics without a license." What's "practicing dietetics" you ask? Well, anyone who gives dietary advice to another person, paid or unpaid. Yes, you heard that right. Basically every parent on earth is "practicing dietetics," and most of the rest of us too.

Secondly, there's a chiropractor in Athens, Ohio who is being harassed by the chiropractic board because he does some energy healing in addition to, or often instead of, chiropractic manipulations.

His investigation floored me. Their first step was to force him to subject to a psychiatric examination. Huh? Yes, they wanted to find out if he was crazy.

Let me get this straight. If you don't practice medicine in exactly the way we think you should practice medicine, YOU MUST BE CRAZY!!

This brings me to my thesis. It really isn't about Western medicine versus holistic medicine. It is a question of whether you fit into my "concept" of medicine or not. If you don't, you must be nuts. Cu-koo. Off your rocker.

Hmmm. That is the only explanation I can find. Western medicine is actually Conceptual Medicine. You need to fit in with the concept, or else. The conceptual framework extends to randomized clinical trials. If we test it in a laboratory, and we perform it very scientifically, it MUST work. It just has too.

Unfortunately, when these techniques or drugs come out of the clinical trials, they often don't work in real life.

Real life is complicated. It has more randomness than you can factor out in a trial. Tons and tons of randomness.

Many of these studies are done with only a handful of subjects. A few dozen or a few hundred. Any statistician from another area would laugh out loud at doing a test in such a complex field of study as the body and thinking that a few dozen people could be reasonable representatives of the whole population. Silly!

You'd need at least several thousand. Even then, you're stuck.

"Randomized" is the problem. How can you randomize everything? Can you randomize out people's genes? How about the people who are contemplating suicide? I'm sure their immune systems are down, but people often don't talk about whether they're thinking about suicide, so they'll get in the study no problem. What about people who have just been exposed to a bunch of chemicals on their drive in to the study? Sat behind a big diesel truck for an hour in traffic. Immune system compromised. Study might as well be thrown out the window.

Holistic medicine, in my experience, is more about whether something works. If a holistic doctor tries a remedy with someone who has a certain set of conditions and it seems to work, the doctor will continue using it in that circumstance.

But this takes time. A doctor with more experience will be a better holistic doctor than a newbie.

But we can also learn from history. There are many therapies that are thousands of years old that Western medicine spurns (i.e. doesn't fit the "concept).

Ayurveda from India. Traditional Chinese Medicine. Why would we ignore so many years of "practical knowledge." Just arrogance. We invented a new "concept" and if the "old stuff" doesn't fit into it, we have to ignore it. And prosecute the practitioners of it.

My advice to you is --- pay attention to what works. What works for you, and what works for your friends. And what has worked for thousands of years. Don't make a "Vioxx decision."

Coming up...

A substitute for medical boards??

Inspired by Linspire

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Supportive Roles of Open Source and Commercial Software

Open source software seems to be in competition with commercial software today. But I think that there will be a symbiotic relationship between the two in a few years.

I believe open source will become a follow-up to commercial offerings. Companies will come out with innovative software packages that we will all buy. Then, as the commercial packages become stable and somewhat stale, the open source community will come out with a similar open source offering comparable to the commercial package. Then we'll all switch to the open source system, and the commercial software vendor will have to come up with something new to entice us to buy again.

On the other hand, the open source community is so full of innovation, they are likely soon to overtake the commercial world in innovative offerings. Right now, most work done in open source is mimicking the commercial systems. OpenOffice mimicks Microsoft Office. Gimp mimicks Adobe Photoshop. Adium mimicks AOL Instant Messenger.

But I expect this innovative group of people around the world will soon surprise us with applications we've never seen before. Applications the commercial world can't even dream of.

Podcast 5 - A New Holistic College

My next podcast is up and ready to go. It's about Cuyahoga Community College, a Cleveland college that is creating an entire campus for holistic healthcare and renewable energy career associate degrees.

Also, I have news about a new movie coming to theaters called "Side Effects," which chronicles the story of a young, female pharmaceutical sales rep who decided to "opt out" and wrote a book exposing the underbelly of the pharmaceutical indistry.

And I feature a collaborative, online word processing system called

Monday, February 13, 2006

Podcast 4 - Why Is Alternative Medicine So Hard?

I got this week's podcast out a little early, because I had roadtrips planned and have a staffing crisis back at the office.

The title for this week's podcast is "Why Is Alternative Medicine So Hard?" An investigation into why it's difficult to be a "compliant patient" of alternative medicine / holistic healthcare, and a few ideas on how to make it easier.

This was a fun one to do (actually, they've all been fun!).

  • Interview with Dr. Roland Chapdelaine of the Cuyahoga Community College, where he is creating associate degree holistic practitioner classes and a huge new wellness center and "incubator"

  • A representative from the Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE) to talk about his life and his remedies for illnesses

See you back soon!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Holistic Health Nation - Podcast 3 - Myths About Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

I released the newest podcast for Holistic Health Nation this week. It's called "Myths About Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)." I'm having a really fun time doing these podcasts.

This episode is about Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), which the President mentioned in the State of the Union address last week. As you probably know by now, I'm a big fan of HSAs, and I think they're going to help us fix the healthcare crisis. I even wrote a book about it!

I hope you decide to have a listen to the podcast. I've fixed the technical problems I was having with the formats in episodes 1 and 2, and I'm feeling ever more comfortable about talking to myself into a microphone.

And I just found out today that I'm going to be interviewing someone from the Edgar Cayce Foundation, known as Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE) in Virginia Beach. We'll talk about Cayce's life and his folk remedies that worked so well for so many thousands of people, and that work today for millions! Hopefully, that episode will come in 2-3 weeks.

Customer Service and Airlines

So here I was, reading "The Support Economy," by Shoshana Zuboff, waiting for my friend Hong to arrive at the airport.

So says Shoshana:
In order to divert the U.S. Congress from a debate over a passenger bill of rights, the airline industry executed the Airline Customer Service Commitment in June 1999. The plan detailed numerous customer service improvements to be undertaken immediately. Depsite the commitment, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) found that customer complaints more than doubled in 1999 over the prior year, and complaints for the first four months of 2000 were up by 74 percent over 1999. They also estimated that the airlines themselves received as many as 400 complaints for every one complaint received by the DOT.

I'm reading this, and Hong and his wife show up, on time, actually. We go downstairs to get their luggage and they get two of the three bags. Then the baggage carousel stops and a lady comes out and says "If you haven't received your bags yet, that means they aren't coming. You'll have to come with me to fill out a lost baggage slip." Okay, that's understandable. Bags get lost sometimes.

But then I notice that about 25 people follow the lady to the lost baggage counter. This was a small plane, so probably about 60 passengers. Almost HALF had lost baggage!! Including Hong and his wife.

Airlines have always had bad service, ever since I can remember. But this is over the top! Hong has had to fly several times in the past year, and he said it's always like this.

I realize that United (the airline in question), Delta, U.S. Airways, America West and Northwest are all either in bankruptcy, just emerged from bankruptcy, or just about to go bankrupt. But this kind of customer service is just going to push them further into financial turmoil.

Hong said he noticed that in Chicago, the baggage handlers all spoke some language other than English to each other, so it seems likely that they might have trouble distinguishing English letter symbols on the baggage tags that denote the airport destinations for the bags.

I haven't had to fly for business reasons (or personal reasons!) for many years now, so I had no idea how bad things had become. The terrorism label has proven to be a great thing to hide underneath when bad service happens for these airlines. Lost your bags? Oh, it must be the terrorism checks that delayed them. Surly flight attendants? Oh, they're just being careful in case there are terrorists.

If you want a bit of fun, check out this site It is a clearing house for customer complaints against United Airlines.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

A Speech on Liberalism - Well Done

I heard a great speech on liberalism from an unlikely place tonight. A TV series called "The L Word" had one of their characters go to Washington to lobby for better funding for the arts. Bette, the character was being berated for artwork that a Senator pointed out that could be considered obscene to some.

Bette's speech in front of the Committee was outstanding. Here it is:

"You're just the latest reigning vigilantes. You're just a distraction. A wanton distraction. Let's just be forthright and honest about what is truly unpatriotic. Abject poverty is unpatriotic. The failure of our education system is unpatriotic. Lies told by presidents as justification for war is unpatriotic. It is unpatriotic that elected lawmakers fail to acknowledge, let alone address real desperation."

Liberalism is often tough to put into words. I think this show did it pretty well.

You probably know by now that I don't consider myself to be a liberal nor a conservative. I was born and raised in Western Canada, where our politics would be considered left of the American lefties and right of the American righties.

We believe in the free market, in small government and personal and fiscal responsibility. We believe in helping the poor, keeping religion separate from government and preserving the environment.

Name a party in the U.S. that fits that. I don't think there is one. In Canada, the closest thing is the current government (as of last week), the Conservative Party of Stephen Harper (the first Albertan Prime Minister, as far as I know...).

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

HHN002 - Second Weekly Podcast is Available Today

My second podcast (ever!) is now available at the podcast site:

Also, if you want to listen to my promo for the podcast, listen to it here.

This podcast is titled "An Answer for Global Malnutrition??"