Oct 202014
 
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Monopoly

 

Remember playing the board game Monopoly?  There was no worse feeling than landing on your fellow player’s Boardwalk property, with their two red houses.  One of the most unfortunate ways to end your game and fun.

Enter real life.

You have a company, a dream or personal desire to stake your claim on the internet.  In searching for the right matching or brandable domain names, all the ‘best’ .COMs are taken.  Finding a domain today has become…well, so limiting.  Like opening up a Christmas morning present to find you’ve received a set of ice cube trays.  Perhaps this is why out of every 1,600 domains searched for, less than 1/10th of 1% become registered.

So what you want is taken…now what?  A .COM domain made up of three or more words and perhaps a name including a hyphen?  How are people reading, watching or listening to ads supposed to remember that?  Actually, they don’t.

Enter ICANN - the organization that coordinates and governs the Domain Name System (DNS), or address system of the internet.  Generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .COM, .EDU, .MIL, .ORG began in 1984 and have been the mainstay ‘right of the dot’ endings for years.  However, many abbreviations, plus one and two-word domain names with these endings became taken by corporations, associations individuals and domain investors.  As a result, much of the premium and semi-premium digital real estate for the next generation of internet users and businesses was taken.

In 2011, ICANN voted to allow internet address system to grow substantially by allowing the registration of largely unrestricted new endings to the right of the dot.  Then Chairman of ICANN, Peter Thrush stated: “[This] decision will usher in a new internet age. We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration. Unless there is a good reason to restrain it, innovation should be allowed to run free.”  

Today, there are more than 417 new gTLDs in use.  Some of these include business terms like .beer and .plumbing, geographic names like .paris and .berlin, as well as foreign symbols such as .移动, which is Chinese for mobile.  Now ‘JohnsPizzaShopofBrooklyn.com’ can simply become ‘Johns.pizza’.  With more than 2.5 Million registered domains with new gTLDs, the space is growing and gaining traction.

xyz-logo-purple

By far, the most popular new gTLD is .xyz – an ending which is purposely positioned as highly generic.  The CEO of .xyz is Daniel Negari, an entrepreneur and visionary in this space.  His intent is to remove domain restrictions for the next generation of internet users, by creating a low-cost global alternative to .com.  In just over four months, .xyz has greatly outpaced all other gTLDs by selling more than 630,000 domain names – and is on pace for more than 1 million names in its first twelve months of operation.

Opposition to Negari’s vision  typically comes from domain investors, who all have a vested interest in seeing .com domains remain free from such competition.  However, as gTLD growth continues to increase, large companies are also getting on board.  Many such as Amazon and Google have invested in their own extensions.  Yahoo has gone on record as saying, “The .com suffix had special meaning for the first generation of Internet users.  For children born this century, it’ll be just one fish in the sea.”

Many of us rarely play Monopoly anymore.  When we do, it’s because nostalgia keeps this game alive.  For some reason, we remember having fun with this game as children.  But we’ve grown up and realize there are much better opportunities for us, and for the next generation for growth and learning.  The same is true with .com – it’s had a great run, but it’s time to move forward.

This isn’t your Daddy’s internet anymore.

Oct 062014
 
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pillsimage

 

 

The practice of medicine is a profession, and pharmaceutical marketing is a business. Physicians and hospitals have their obligations to patients, while drug companies put their allegiance toward public shareholders and private corporate owners.  Simply stated, the interests of medicine and the pharmaceutical industry are not aligned – despite the fact that they ultimately have the same customer base.

According to Consumer Reports, nearly half (46 percent) of American adults take prescription drugs, the average adult taking four prescriptions regularly.  Twenty-five percent of these people, ages 18 to 39, take two medications regularly.

There can be no denying that in many cases, pharmaceutical drugs have extended the quantity and quality of life.  Generalized examples are Penicillin, Insulin, Ether, Diuretics, and Viagra.  Individual medications such as Advair® for asthma, Gleevec® for chronic myeloid leukemia, and Remicade® for rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease have definitively been shown to be life-changing.

For many years, the drug industry operated in a reactive fashion.    People developed diseases, researchers studied the conditions, scientists developed the drugs for treatment, and drug manufacturers marketed the drugs to the physicians and hospitals that would then distribute them to patients.

Today’s pharmaceutical companies participate in an industry that is riskier than ever.   First off, just one out of ten-thousand or .01% of all created drug compounds is ever approved from the Food & Drug Administration.  Only 15% of those approved will ever cover just the developmental costs, usually over a seven to ten year period.  So, drug companies either need “blockbuster” creations to find more customers for existing products or……create new diseases out of thin air.

About 20 years ago, Lynn Payer, a health-science writer, coined the term “disease mongering”.  She defined the practice as “trying to convince essentially well people that they are sick or slightly sick people that they are very ill”.  This comes from Payer’s book Disease-Mongers: How Doctors, Drug Companies, and Insurers Are Making You Feel Sick.

Other authors and researchers, such as Ray Moynihan, have dubbed this Big Pharma strategy as “the corporate construction of disease”.   The strategy works especially well in the United States, as it is only one of two countries in the entire world that allows for the marketing of prescription drugs directly to consumers.

Several of the more popular strategies employed by drug companies, as told by Payer and others, include:

 

Inventing Diseases

Drug companies file for and receive patents on their compounds for a 20-year period, giving them a monopolistic advantage against other players in the market.  But once that patent is expired, generic medications (copies) quickly flood the market and the benefit is lost.  This can cost drug companies billions in potential revenue each year.

According to Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, associate professor of pharmacology and director of the industry watchdog group PharmedOut.org at Georgetown University School of Medicine, a perfect example of inventing a disease is/has been demonstrated by Eli Lilly.

In 1999, the drug giant stood to lose a lot of profit when the patent for its prized-drug Prozac® was going to expire.  They knew that Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) had been proposed but not approved as a real disorder in the guidelines for psychiatric disorders.

Symptoms include the normally accepted gamut of symptoms such as:

  • mood swings
  • marked irritability or anger
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • marked anxiety
  • decreased interest in usual activities
  • difficulty concentrating
  • lethargy
  • change in appetite
  • breast tenderness
  • insomnia

 

For years, gynecologists have classified these feelings and symptoms as normal and common prior to a woman’s menstrual cycle.  But in this case, Eli Lilly put massive amounts of funding, studies, and surveys to conclude that it was actually not normal, but a condition known as PMDD.

Naturally, Eli Lilly was looking out for the best interests of those suffering women.  Although psychiatric organizations would not recognize it as a real disorder, the Food and Drug Administration did.  In doing so, they allowed Eli Lilly to rebrand and recolor its Prozac pills as Sarafem®, thus extending its patent life for the treatment of PMDD.

We now have psychotropic anti-depressant medication for pre-menstrual symptoms.  Well, that’s innovation and looking out for the betterment of women across the world.  Now women can have a legitimate reason for missing work or school during their ‘PMDD days’.

Eli Lilly ran advertisements directly to consumers on TV and in women’s magazines relating to Sarafem.  One such ad featured an ordinary-looking woman angrily trying to pull a grocery cart from a row.  The tag line read: “Think it’s PMS? Think again … It could be PMDD.”  Wow, what’s next…going postal?

Within two years, Eli Lilly sold Sarafem for $259 million.  Once several of the other anti-depressant kingpins such as Zoloft® and Paxil® got into the PMDD game, Eli Lilly wasn’t the only game in town.

 

Taking common behavior and making it sound like it’s a sign of a serious disease 

According to popular author Dr. Andrew Weil, a common tactic in the disease-mongering arsenal is to attach polysyllabic, clinical-sounding names to what used to be seen as normally short-lived conditions.  In most cases, the new, formidable names come complete with acronyms, which add even more gravitas. Thus:

 

  • Occasional heartburn becomes “Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease” or GERD.
  • Impotence becomes “Erectile Dysfunction” or ED.
  • Premenstrual tension becomes “Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder” or PMDD.
  • Shyness becomes “social anxiety disorder” or SAD.
  • Fidgeting legs becomes “restless leg syndrome” or RLS.

 

While it is true that extreme variations of such conditions may require pharmaceutical treatment, Big Pharma does very little to draw distinction between serious and mild manifestations.  Thus, a shift in leverage for the average individual’s understanding is slated in favor of the drug industry.

When someone has a small amount of gastric upset following a spicy meal, it is labeled “GERD,” and nervousness before giving a speech is “SAD.”  And, of course, the drug industry is there to help by using existing drugs meant for other conditions to now be available for these common, yet uncomfortable conditions many people have.  The more ‘many’ there are, the more profit can be had.

 

Promoting fear of death as a means to sell drugs

In 2003, Pfizer ran an advertising campaign in France and Canada for their statin medication Lipitor®.  Their print advertisements, such as the one shown below, were supported by the Canadian Lipid Nurse Network and the Canadian Diabetes Association.

 

 

image tag drugs

 

 

The point of this advertisement, along with a television counterpart, was to get people to have their cholesterol checked and treated (with Lipitor), or else face the very real possibility of death.

Did Pfizer ever make financial contributions to these supporting organizations?  One surely must assume that they lent support to this type of marketing because it was for the betterment of individuals and not for any quid pro quo relationship (sarcasm mine).

And guess what else?  Studies back then and today DO NOT support the conclusion that if you don’t take statins, you are at a high risk of cardiovascular events and hence death.

In a recent study in the British Medical Journal, Julia Hippisley-Cox, professor of clinical epidemiology and general practice, and Carol Coupland, associate professor in medical statistics examined data from over two million patients, including over 225,000 patients who were new statin drug users.

They found that for every 10,000 women being treated with statins, there were only 271 fewer cases of heart disease.  Moreover, the statin drugs caused 74 cases of liver damage, 23 cases of acute kidney failure, 39 cases of extreme muscle weakness and 307 cases of cataracts.  Ergo, statin drugs helped 271 people but harmed 443 people.

In 2012, the medical journal Atherosclerosis showed that statin use is associated with a 52 percent increased prevalence and extent of calcified coronary plaque compared to non-users.  None of the participants in the study – 6,673 in all – had any known coronary artery disease at the time.  In other words, using statin drugs increased ‘artery clogging and stiffening’, which is a hallmark of cardiovascular disease in itself.

What’s just as bad, drug companies have pushed the envelope in developing many different ‘Pre-Conditions’.  Numbers that used to be normal for blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol have all been lowered due to the collusion between pharmaceutical companies and support from physicians.  Would it surprise you that such relationships typically involve some type of monetary compensation for opinion?

Do you know people who fall into this new high range of normal?  They are now classified as those having pre-hypertension, pre-diabetes and borderline high cholesterol.  Guess what this means?  You got it – they qualify for being on medication.

Stopping Big Pharma from disease mongering won’t be easy. They are funding their efforts with tremendous amounts of money, as well as with political and professional interests.  This process is disempowering all-too trusting citizens by tapping into our fear of suffering and death, as well as manipulating the Food and Drug Administration and those who can legally deliver their products to the masses. Here are three tactics I recommend:

 

Create a Law for Clear Disclosure

One tactic I would use would be to put into law a process similar to that on Wall Street, where financial analysts who recommend stocks, bonds, and mutual funds MUST disclose if they have a position in such a company.

Physicians, medical organizations, universities, non-profit charities, etc. would all need to disclose in their research or news articles that they either did or did not have a relationship with the product or drug company they were writing about or recommending, despite whether the research was positive or not.

This disclosure would need to be in big bold letters at the top of every article.  Transparency goes a long way in leveling the playing field of information and decision-making.  It also re-establishes lost trust.

       

Simplifying Results For Easy Reading

Today, the FDA requires that every study done by a pharmaceutical organization on their drug(s) must be made public.  That’s fine, except that most ordinary people don’t understand how to read these studies, nor do they want to take the time.  People assume that if studies are done by reputable institutions, they must have the best interests of suffering patients at the top of the list.

People want and need this type of information to make informed choices, but it needs to be simplified to perhaps an eighth grade reading level.  These studies are not just for patients and interested individuals, but also physicians.

Patients truly believe that their physicians take the time to read the latest articles on medications and then weigh the pros and cons to make a responsible and well-thought-out decision on determining use.  In many cases, doctors themselves rely on pharmaceutical salespeople to shorten their learning curve through short lunches and strategically-designed product literature.

 

Pharmaceutical Report Card

When all the studies are done, the articles are written, the promises realized and the complaints filed, I’d like to see the Food and Drug Administration grow a set of elephant-sized testicles and step up to provide an overall current grade to each drug on the market.  A lot of parameters would go into this grading, including perhaps all past and current scientific studies.  These would be broken down to positive and negative results.  Another parameter, for example, would be filed complaints and successfully-settled lawsuits.

In the end, such a report card format could provide updated, validated data from a trusted non-pharmaceutical resource, so that people and physicians could determine a medication’s effectiveness and safety.

 

 

Sep 292014
 
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01chains.1.600

 

Question:  What do goal lines, field goal posts, first downs and out-of-bounds punts all have in common?  

Answer:  With respect to football placement, in many situations, they still involve some level of human guessing. 

Instant replay has helped the game immeasurably.  I dare say that when applied to past NFL history, that technology would have resulted in new winners, losers and champions.  So we know that technology helps to bring certainty, and I now put forth the idea in an entirely new way.

BACKGROUND:  

How many times during a football game does a referee guess at:

  • The exact spot of the ball, with respect to forward progress
  • If the football broke the plane of the goal line
  • Exactly where an out-of-bounds punt crossed the sideline
  • Whether a field goal was inside or outside of the post

 

THE INVENTION:  

525px-TDOA_GeometryFootball computer-chip insertion and football field computer mapping.   Here a very tiny set of computer chips are implanted on the inside both ends of the football – just outside the bladder of the ball, but inside the nose.

Next, create a mapping system, for locating the ball within the field.  GPS doesn’t work indoors, due to bouncing off roofs walls and other structures – and it is not very accurate.  Therefore, we would need to utilize a grid-based system, where a dense network of low-range (ultrawideband) receivers would be planted into the playing field.  Techniques used within this system would include localization using Time Difference of Arrival (TDoA) – also known as ‘multilateration’.

This system would be mapped to a specific computer-based image of the football field, passing on location results as pixel points on this field map.  So when the any transmitting chip, on either end of the football breaks through  and pass on location results as exact points on this image.  This would also include receivers placed on the tops of field goal posts.  Effectively, the entire field would be ‘covered’ by an electronic grid network.

So now:

  • The punter shanks the kick…now WE KNOW where it’s to be spotted.
  • We can be sure that within a large pile of players at the goal line, the running back DIDN’T break the plane of the goal line.
  • The tip of the ball DID in fact reach the first down marker with forward progress on the pass.

This is the beauty inherent in having specific location points of the football during every game.  This would optimize many of the the remaining mistakes, which are too valuable to leave in the hands, opinions and judgement of the officials.  Google, NCAA, and NFL…feel free to reach out to get this started.  My son and I will be happy to attend any and all games during testing.

Upgraded parking, beer and hot dogs mandatory.

Sep 072014
 
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Okay, let’s get the scary numbers out of the way.  We spend $2.8 trillion each year on health insurance – $8,500 per American.  This equates to our healthcare system being the 5th largest economy in the world, only behind the United States, China, Japan and Germany.  Private insurance premiums are skyrocketing for small plans, large plans and individuals.  The U.S. is $17 trillion in debt – actually it’s a hell of a lot more – so add an extra $40 trillion just for Medicare and Medicaid unfunded liabilities.  Plus Obamacare, while noble in its intent, is causing and will result in many more problems than its helping.

Health insurers blame doctors, hospitals, defensive medicine and patient over-utilization.  Doctors and hospitals blame the greed of health insurers and looming malpractice insurance costs.  All three groups point fingers at the progression of chronic disease  in America, and the lack of responsibility in exercising and eating right.  We have a lackluster President and Congress, trying to put laws in place, in a best attempt to save face, keep votes and capture some small measure of political legacy.

None of the major players discussed have any real measure of contrition, nor do they want to be honest or responsible in any major way.  Hence, we are in a major shit storm, with the protective umbrellas held either by those having no-deductible, fully-funded company insurance plans, or by the richest Americans who are apathetic to the severity of this mess.

And for those who tout ‘Single Payer/Universal Healthcare’ as the answer, for God’s sake shake yourself!  Hillary and Obama failed at this, not because they were stupid, but because the for-profit system has grown too big to fail.  C’mon guys, it’s a nasty game of musical chairs – what happens to all of the employees of insurers and their vendors/contractors with a single payer?  What happens to all of the shareholders of all the publicly-held health insurers that can no longer sell insurance?  Remember the people who freaked out over GM raiding their pension plan?  That’s one company – now try an entire sector of industry with stocks widely-distributed in pension plans and mutual funds.

I’ve come up with a unique idea that can help to make a major dent in this problem.  It puts a sizable part of the solution back into the hands of a select group of Americans – namely those living in their last year of life.  It gives health insurers the opportunity to actually be the good guys, of sorts.  It’s called the Transitions Plan – and it’s patented (well, Patent Pending anyway).

BACKGROUND: According to New York Times, the roughly 6 percent of Medicare patients who die each year make up 27 to 30 percent of all Medicare costs. While the numbers for private health payers are not made public, my inside information points to similar statistics.

Separately, studies show that each year 70% of all deaths occur due to chronic disease.  Nearly three-quarters of that number comprises those suffering with heart disease, stroke and cancer.  All told, nearly $1 Trillion or a third of all total yearly health payer payments made to hospitals and physicians are for a person’s last year of life.

This last year of life is where insurers can make a tremendous mark on our healthcare costs.  Enter the ‘Transitions’ program.

THE PROGRAM:  This disruptive innovation starts with ‘last year of life’ individuals understanding that, apart from their illness, they are a liability for private & public health payers, the other individuals they insure, and for the taxpayers.  This realization is not a bad – actually, these people need to recognize that they have enough leverage on the dollars at play to become part of the solution.  And separately, most Americans die with little or no money to leave family or charities.

Ask a chronically ill person or even an elderly person what they think about being kept alive for as long as possible.  Many of these people are not as interested in quantity of life as they are in quality.  Simply stated, people who are terminally ill come to realize that they are living on borrowed time and they want that time to be the best possible.  Excepting those unable to think clearly and responsibly, seniors and others who suffer from life-threatening diseases should have a lot to say about their life and the direction they wish to take it in.

Dr. Ken Murray, Professor of Family Medicine at USC wrote an article entitled How Doctors Die.  His premise is that because doctors know the limitations of their expertise and technology, many choose to forego end of life medical efforts.  He states,

Almost all medical professionals have seen what we call “futile care” being performed on people. That’s when doctors bring the cutting edge of technology to bear on a grievously ill person near the end of life. The patient will get cut open, perforated with tubes, hooked up to machines, and assaulted with drugs. All of this occurs in the Intensive Care Unit at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars a day. What it buys is misery we would not inflict on a terrorist.”

Here’s where the Transitions Program begins.  It’s a system where health insurance companies identify terminally ill patients and in lieu of paying for their last year’s medical expenses, decide to offer these members the opportunity to ‘cash out’ for a determined, non-taxable amount of money.

Let’s say that Charlie Smith is a 78-year old man who has just been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  Hypothetically, the average case lasts about 9 months and there is an 88% chance of death during this time.  Between chemotherapy, lab tests, doctor visits, home health, pulmonary therapy and several possible surgeries, a typical health insurance company can expect to pay between $325,000 and $425,000.

Now for some innovation using the health insurer’s monies, and proper risk management.

The health insurer, ABC Insurance receives the patient’s initial diagnosis on a medical claim.  It’s flagged and the case is passed to their medical management department.  Medical management is French for consultants, experts, nurses and doctors hired by the health insurance company to determine if the medical claims they receive are reasonable and necessary treatment.

Medical management, in doing their job, requests medical records from the provider(s) who sent the claim(s) with the diagnosis.  Once they receive the information and the diagnosis is properly substantiated, the health payer teams with an actuarial team to set an estimated valuation on the case.  Let’s assume it’s placed at $400,000.

Now the health payer gets in contact with the patient and presents the offer for the transitions program.  The letter reads:

Mr. Smith, we at ABC insurance care about your health needs.  Because we have recently received verification of your disease of stage 3 lung cancer, we want to make you aware of our Transitions Program.  Here’s how it works.

First, the program is completely voluntary and if you choose to not use it, nothing will change with your current health coverage.  This does not guarantee any payment for future medical services, as all claims must be evaluated for medical necessity.

However, upon your agreement, ABC insurance would send you a one-time financial payment in the amount of $225,000.  This money is tax-free and is being offered to you in a non-negotiable manner.  Once you receive the payment, the following would occur:

1)  ABC insurance would no longer be responsible for payment for any treatment or services, directly or indirectly related to your chronic condition.  These conditions include the following: XXX, XXX, XXX, and XXX.

2)  ABC insurance would remain responsible for any treatments or services billed prior to your acceptance into the Transitions Program, so long as they are deemed medically necessary.

3)  You could continue to see medical providers and have them bill services to ABC insurance, so long as such conditions are separate from those listed above.  As always, payments for any medical services billed to us are considered and paid for when deemed medically necessary.

4)  ABC insurance would continue to pay, on an as-needed and medically necessary basis, any palliative or ‘pain management’ care, associated with your condition.  This would not include hospitalization, therapy or home health if related, directly or indirectly to your present condition.

Please note that you do not have to accept this settlement offer per ABC’s Transitions Program.  If you do not answer this letter or call our office within 10 days, we will assume that you will not accept the payment of $225,000.  A refusal of this offer means that you may continue to treat for your condition, and we will continue to pay for care determined as necessary for your condition.

What has just happened is a unique meeting of the minds between poor to middle class dying Americans and the health insurance industry.  This is not euthanasia, and by clear choice, chronically ill patients can have at least one reason to view death as a less-morbid transition.  In giving insureds the option to be financially compensated, health payers are shifting payments from the medical establishment, back to individuals who are taking clear control of their lives.

Imagine Mr. Smith having less than $20,000 of total savings and no insurance policy.  He has a loving family who is in the lower income class.  While $225,000 of tax-free money is not millions, it could make a difference to that family and perhaps their ability to afford healthcare, a home or even college.

What if Mr. Smith decided to take his entire family on a trip around the world as a memory-filled gift, in lieu of his slow death on a hospital bed with tubes?  What if he paid off his grandchildren’s college loans?  How about giving it to charity?

The choice to be made would obviously lie with the patient.  Similar to the ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (DNR) order, the responsibility for choice would come from the patient, or if mentally unable, might be deemed to come from his family, or appointed surrogate.  Health insurers actually will have the ability to assist those who wish, to give back in a unique and meaningful way – as well as to help our current healthcare crisis.  Perhaps a provision could even be attached relating to the effect of payout savings to other insureds’ premium costs.

People have always viewed death as painful.  A part of that could be the fact that apart from the relationships and the memories, people DO enjoy giving and helping.  Plus, at the bottom of it all, we have a major health crisis in our country where something other than higher tax rates needs to be offered.  People constantly scream at paying medicine for necessary and needed care…perhaps letting the patient determine that need, rather than the doctors, might just shave hundreds of billions each year.

Please feel free to give me your thoughts on the voluntary Transitions Program.

Jun 222014
 
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DSCF8138I love A.1. steak sauce.  That concoction of tomatoes, raisin paste, distilled vinegar and a whole host of other spices and herbs. The original sauce upon which A.1. is based, was created in 1824 by Henderson William Brand, a chef to King George IV of the United Kingdom. It’s been a mainstay on my steaks, burgers and even steak fries for years. But on my most recent usage, I came to realize that perhaps many restaurants and end users have been duped.  

I’m not speaking of those who would find it nearly sacrilegious to put A.1. on a fine steak in the first place – but rather, perhaps we’ve all been part of some oversight  on the bottle’s design and how it’s been used by us.  Now that my eyes have been opened, I would put forth the argument that the bottle’s design, whether purposely or not, promotes many tens of millions of ‘over-pours’ from home diners and restaurant patrons – perhaps monthly.

Years ago I recall hearing about a soy sauce manufacturer who was looking for a unique marketing angle to sell more of their product. One day, a slick executive suggested that they keep everything else the same and simply enlarge the hole or holes in the top.  More soy sauce distributed with each pour, increased consumption and voilà – they had increased sales.

The technique is not unheard of.  Henkel changed the dosage of their German dish liquid Pril and enlarged the opening of the bottle.  I won’t deny A.1.’s popularity and the brand is definitely trusted.  Moreover, I’m not accusing Kraft or any of the former owners of foul play.  But why hasn’t Kraft chosen to manufacture the bottle in a far cheaper plastic container, keeping the same shape and adding a squeeze top?  

Other sauces such as Heinz 57 have made the change, and so has Hellman’s with their mayonnaise.  But then again, mayo doesn’t come running out of the large opening when you use it.  Plastic is certainly cheaper to use in packaging than glass, but perhaps the over-pours, an oversight by many of us, is exactly what is keeping the product’s output churning in large volumes.  

Of course, larger volumes lead to more corporate income, better placements on grocery store shelves, and more advantageous pricing relationships with food wholesalers and restauranteurs.  Whether Kraft knows it or not, our over-pours are helping their ‘heavily’ trickled-down product economics.  

Just makes me wonder…and you?

Jun 132014
 
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It’s Sunday, June 15th.  Tomorrow will start the first week in 22 years that I will not be seeing patients for chiropractic care.  There is some sadness to be sure, but at the same time, I’m excited for the challenges of a new career.  My move is into the world of internet technology, where I will be a part of the strategy team for an emerging company in the domain registry space.  Though no longer in practice, I will always remain a Chiropractor in my hands and heart.

In looking back on my chiropractic career, I give credit to my father, who brought me into this profession as a child.  I learned a lot from Dad’s legacy.  I can honestly say that I will not miss Medicare or the commercial health insurance companies one bit.  But I will miss my patients, and the many wonderful times we’ve shared.   Just a few nights ago we shared a terrific evening at the office, where we said our goodbyes.

GoodpicpatientsErinKip20140610_194256

 

 

 

 

goodpic3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a few takeaways I have learned and experienced in practice:

-  Chiropractic is a profession built not upon status, but upon success where medicine failed those in pain.  

-  The power of a chiropractic adjustment is awesome, and at times life-changing. 

-  Chiropractic IS NOT ‘Alternative Medicine’.  It is not a part of the medical profession, nor is it alternative to anything. 

-  As a chiropractor, you need to have a thick skin and not worry about being on par with medicine.  Most people will not call you ‘Doctor’, nor will the masses hold you in the same esteem as a surgeon or specialist.  Selflessness is always better than narcissism, especially in this profession.  

-  Many patients, and unfortunately many family doctors know very little about how to evaluate the health of the spine.  This leads to patients coming in far later for care, so that instead of just pain they also bring in joints that have irreversible damage.

-  If we could MRI patients proactively, so that disc and joint issues could be detected even before pain came, it would help the health of our country tremendously.  It would also decrease back and neck surgeries, as well as joint replacements.

-  Chiropractic is a profession built upon results and referrals.  

My wife Nellie and I came to Richmond in 1996, to begin our new married life.  We walked into this empty space, which had formerly been a popcorn store, and immediately knew that this was going to be the place.  We brought in contractors, and helped to paint the office during the days, and I went door to door to many hundreds of homes in the afternoons and evenings.

In my years of practice, I always held to the mantra that you could never ‘out-give’ yourself or your talents.  I worked hard to educate and to help people learn about chiropractic – and the difference it could make for them and their families.  The time spent helping many thousands of patients will bring me many good thoughts for my remaining years on this planet.

Now I leave what I’ve built to another doctor who will carry on the same tradition of giving for the sake of giving, serving for the sake of serving, and loving for the sake of loving.  That’s chiropractic.  It’s about the people you meet, the experiences you and the patients share, and the ability to use only your hands to effect the body’s inner healing to occur.

With that, I’d like to:

-  Thank God for giving me good hands, and the ability to use them – and my mind properly.

-  Thank my Dad for getting me into chiropractic.  Dad was a pioneer in this profession, when there were still states that didn’t allow for chiropractic licensing. Dad will be missed.

-  Thank my loving wife Nellie for giving me the support I needed to start this practice, and the diligence and persistence she lent during its many years of success.

-  Thanks to all of my staff over the years, and most especially Elaine Larry, who was the most helpful and most loved of all of my staff.  She may work for me, but we call her and her husband dear friends.

I will miss my patients very, very much.  It has been a complete privilege taking care of them.  If practice has taught me anything, it’s taught me that people need to hear the message of chiropractic.  My chiropractic philosophy is a reflection of my personal life experience as a chiropractic patient, provider & educator.  The many miracles that I have witnessed and my passion to see the next generation become less chemical-dependent and avoid surgery have been a daily driving force.

 

With gratitude,

Dr. Stephen Ambrose, DC

May 072014
 
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nicepicDad1

Dr. Robert S. Ambrose
(1942-2014)

 

This is the first week in 45 years of my life that I am without a father.  A man who I called Dad, who I spoke to as a brother, and who I shared feelings with as a trusted friend.  A powerful sparkle in God’s eye that he allowed to be shared with friends, family and patients.

Many reading this post will not be able to attend the funeral of Robert Ambrose.  I only hope that the words I write and you read will pay this man the due he so richly deserves.  I’ve also included some of his most recent pictures below, which you can click to enlarge and enjoy.

Dad wasn’t perfect, and trying to make him seem perfect would be dishonoring to what he would want me to tell others.  You see, Dad didn’t concern himself with being the best, the richest, or the flashiest.  His passion was to enjoy life, to love his family and to help others. Over these last few days since his sudden and surprising death, my brother Michael and I have gotten to know Dad’s heart and mind in a way better than perhaps a last conversation.

Many of us would presume to understand what God’s plan is for us.  When someone we love or care about is taken away, we sometimes question the “fairness” and the “love” that a just God would have in doing this.  But I believe that events such as the death of a close and loved individual bring clarity and understanding to our lives – if we are to open up our minds and hearts.  What I believe, more now than ever, is that there IS a God, that in being with Him, Dad is finally free from suffering, and that we all will have the opportunity to see Dad once again.

My father’s life tells a story of an only child born to Helen and Stephen Ambrose.  Robert, or “Bobby” as he was known to his parents and closest relatives, was born at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, on September 19, 1942.  Dad was a full-blooded Hungarian, who entered his first day of school in Lakewood, N.J. never learning how to speak English.  Dad adapted and eventually thrived in school, making many friends and pursuing sports, such as Varsity Baseball.  He was handsome, proud of his 1958 Pontiac and could ‘cut a fine rug’ on the dance floor.

After Lakewood High School, Dad attended the University of Maryland, studying and eventually gaining a degree in Sociology. Thereafter, against the wishes of his strong-willed and loving mother, Dad chose a career in Chiropractic – a profession that was much maligned by mainstream medicine.  But being on the ‘odd’ or minority side of things wasn’t important to Dad.  He didn’t compromise his values just to be liked.  He was a man who knew that he enjoyed helping people, and that it was within him to be excellent at that.  Dad went on to help many thousands of sick and hurting patients in his more than 41 years of chiropractic practice in central New Jersey.

My mother and father married in 1963 and bore two children, myself and my sister Melissa.  Eventually divorcing, Dad always felt it important to be near his children and to bring as little disruption  to our lives as possible.  So he kept his home chiropractic office, which was connected to my mother’s home – for another 28 years!  Mom and Dad stayed friends because they knew that apart from their differences, that the welfare and comfort of their children came first.  I loved Dad for that.

Eventually Dad remarried to Judy Zager, who had been very successful in real estate.  Dad loved Judy very much, and she bore him a son named Michael in 1984.  In the spring of 1986, Judy was tragically killed in an automobile accident – but my brother Michael survived.  He has gone on to be an accomplished pianist and entrepreneur in the internet domain space.  Dad’s heart was broken, but he stayed strong for his children, raising Michael as a single Dad.  He could have quickly remarried, but Dad wasn’t looking for a helper, he was looking for another heart to love.

That happened for Dad, when in 1997 he married Sande Mule, an accomplished dance school owner and teacher.  Sande brought energy and excitement back into the areas of Dad’s life that had been dimmed for years.  Dad’s passion came back into so many areas of his life, and he was a better man for being with her.  Our hearts go out to Sande in his loss of a dear husband and wonderful companion.

So what else did Dad do?

He was an accomplished sailor, and a proud member of the U.S. Power Squadrons.  He was an avid skier, taking his family on many trips to Vermont, Utah, Pennsylvania and yes, even northern New Jersey.  Dad’s sole baseball devotion was to the New York Yankees.  For football, you could frequently catch Dad regularly jumping out of his recliner, in good times and bad, when watching his beloved New York Giants.

Was Dad the greatest man to ever walk the earth?  Probably not.  But he WAS great.

Was he the most intelligent?  No.  But many times he HAD the right answers.

Was he the most handsome?  Well, a popular line he always threw out was, “Handsomer than the Handsomest!”   I’ll let that stand for now Dad, since you can’t be here to defend yourself.

In closing, Robert Ambrose was a man that we were all better off for knowing and for loving.  Today I am wearing the gold chain and anchor that that sailor wore for so many years, until that fateful night that he had to remove it in the emergency room.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m wearing it now, or the pride of being able to wear it, but I feel like he’s with me just that much more.

Dear God….I miss my Dad.  We all miss him so very much.  Please take good care of him Father.

 

EulogyDadSteveSailing20130715_104141

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EulogyDadEllenSailing

dadmike

 

Feb 022014
 
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“Did you know that childhood is the only time in our lives when insanity is not only permitted to us, but expected?” 
                                                                                           - Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

 

In many ways, I believe that vintage toys, that is, those more than twenty years old, were the best.  They were less likely to break, didn’t put all of their value on the latest computer technology, and carried a longer time to obsolescence.  After all, we still see Slinky, Etch-A-Sketch and Monopoly on the toy shelves…but do we still purchase Madden 2008 or Halo 2?

So many of the new toys are either mindless, such as many video games, or they seek to make a big point of stimulating an educational need or developmental stage of childhood.  Vintage toys didn’t have an agenda, they weren’t difficult, and didn’t result in passive over-stimulation (staring at the TV screen anyone?)

Perhaps Susan Linn, a doctor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School sums it up best, “The best toy is 10% toy and 90% child. We’ve got all these toys embedded with computer chips that talk and sing and play and dance at the press of a button. But what they do is deprive children of the ability to exercise their creativity. The toys that really foster creativity just lie there until they’re transformed by children.”

So I’ve taken a little liberty with this post, in that I hope you are able to identify with some of these items.  Perhaps you had one or more as a kid, and can remember the fun it brought you.  The second half of this is a challenge to your memory.  

As you can see, there are no identifying names, only numbers.  If there are some that you don’t remember but want to know, just email me the number and I’ll give you the name.  Plus, if I’ve missed any important ones that you liked (other than Barbie) , feel free to let me know.

1kennereasybakeoven 2hoppityhop 3Mego2XL 4lunarlauncher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

6 NFL 1972 electronic football game

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7snoopysnoconemachine

 

8eightball9gumby

 

 

 

10firechief pedal car 11Spirograph12armymen

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Viewmaster 14ticklemeelmo 15tonkatruckmightyloader

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16bigwheel 17joybuzzer 18chattycathy dolls

 

 

 

 

 

 

19clackers 20barbie dream house 21stretcharmstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22littlepeoplegarage VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100 24wiffleball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25beaniebaby

26Tinkertoy

27GI JOe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

28buckrogersraygun

29rockemsockemrobots

30oldmaid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32flatsypatsy

33roller skates with key

34EvelKnievelStuntBike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

35waterrocket

36star trek phaser

37SixMillionDollarMan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

38rayline tracer gun

39shrinkydinks

40SchwinStingRay 1967Fastback3speed

Jan 252014
 
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midway

The United States has only 5% of the world’s population, but houses an astronomical 25% of the world’s criminals. Theories as to why this exists include a politicized response to urban and drug-related crime in the 1970’s, overspending of state funds, and the privatization of prisons.  Whatever the reasons, it’s clear that we simply have too many prisoners for our prisons to safely hold, and the costs are skyrocketing.

According to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons’ 9.5 percent population growth from 2006 to 2011 well exceeded its rated capacity.  As of the time I am penning this chapter, there is a thirty-nine percent overage in our prison system, which is estimated to grow to near 50% by 2018.

How about this.  At 4,575 prisons, the U.S. quadruples second place Russia at just 1,029.  The total prison population in America is just over 2.2 million, which is the population of Houston – America’s fourth largest city.

The ballooning incarcerated population puts a tremendous strain on rehabilitation efforts, while simultaneously putting inmates and guards in danger.  With double and triple bunking in one cell, the crowding and loss of privacy increases the odds that prisoners will lash out at themselves and guards.

There are cases of those wrongly accused, but the vast majority prisoners ARE guilty of heinous and violent crimes such as murder, rape, sodomy, child molestation, human trafficking, espionage, using weapons of mass destruction, and treason.  These felons and death row inmates constitute the country’s 41,000 prisoners serving a term of life without parole (LWOP).

THE COSTS

Duke University researchers estimate that the death penalty costs taxpayers an additional $2.16 million for each case.  Such cases generally take at least twenty years for appeals to go through the courts system!  Moreover, the state of Kansas found that it costs an average of $740,000 to keep someone in prison for life.

According to a California Corrections study, it costs taxpayers up to 300% more to care for prisoners over the age of fifty-five; this is due to chronic conditions inherent with their failing health.  The cost of housing a thirty-seven-year-old prison inmate is about $49,000 per year.  At age fifty-five, the cost…wait for it… increases to $150,000 per year!  If the inmate lives to age seventy-seven, the state could spend as much as $4 million to keep him in prison for life.

Why are we giving criminals without a chance for parole medical treatment and care?  They are afforded healthcare privileges that many millions of uninsured law-abiding Americans can’t afford and do without.

THE SOLUTION

Let me take you into my world…and a solution called the ‘Pacific Prisons’.  It will ease some of the taxpayer burden, free up more money in state budgets, offer a serious deterrent for committing capital crimes, lighten the load on court dockets, and offers the possibility of completely removing the death penalty from all fifty states.

The Pacific Prisons program begins with the ‘lifers’ and only the lifers taking a permanent vacation away from the United States – never to return.  We are talking about the 41,000 convicted male and female felons who have absolutely no chance of parole, or are on death row.  In total, these individuals (39,770 male and 1,230 female) constitute less than 2 percent of all U.S. prisoners.

Naturally, it would be unfair for us to burden another country with our ‘criminal baggage’, so we’ll have to find a few deserted islands, still under control of the United States.  After some research, I came across just the set of little beauties that will do the trick – Midway Island and Palmyra Atoll.

These islands are considered part of the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands.  They are rarely visited, except by military or scientific personnel, and are both considered wildlife refuges under various federal government agencies, such as Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Agriculture.

midwayMidway Island, having an area of 2.4 square miles, would be the prison for the male convicts.  Its location is in the northern Pacific Ocean, sitting about halfway between North America and China’s mainland.  The island was formerly a convenient refueling stop for transpacific flights, and later served as a critical naval air station during World War Two and the Korean War.

In 1993 the then naval air facility was officially decommissioned by the military.  The island still has twenty miles of roads, nearly five miles of pipelines, and a one-and-a-half mile long runway.

Midway Island is approximately 3,200 miles west of California, 2,200 miles east of Japan, 4,300 miles northeast of Australia and 1,300 miles to Honolulu, Hawaii.  That puts it right about…in the middle of nowhere.

The female LWOP convicts will go to Green Island, greenislandas a part of the Kure Atoll, which is about 58 miles northwest of Midway Island.  From 1960 to 1992, this 200 acre island served as a United States Coast Guard LORAN station, complete with a short coral runway.

So we have two islands, under U.S. control, former military bases, having average temperatures of 72 degrees year-round and both are remote.  There would be plenty of high walls and barbed wire fences built.  No doctors, hospitals, teachers, therapists, books, mail or electricity.  Sundown would really be ‘lights-out’.

Food would be in the form of a mixture of protein powder, grains, nuts, powdered vitamins and minerals.  It would contain all the essential nutrients to sustain life.  There would be no packaging, and its dispersal would be through devices similar to small silos, dropping the food down.  Water would be brought in through desalinization and filtration, thereafter delivered to prisoners through numerous tough-built and protected fountains.

Showers and lavatories would be designed with a minimal opportunity for prisoners to break, touch or make usable any parts.  Technology like what we see outdoors at large events – you get the drift.  Living facilities would not need heat or air conditioning, nor would there be bars.  Just cement rooms mattresses.  Anyway, I’ll leave that up to the engineers and security design teams.

The guards would be well-paid and rotate duty perhaps every three to six months.  They would take an approach of being ‘hands-off’ with the prisoners.  That is, they would sit high atop cement guard posts, outside of the high cement walls.  They would not interact with the prisoners, except to shoot, if needed, during escape attempts.  This means that prisoners would in fact, be forming their own communities and policing themselves.

Some may think, “How cruel.  They’re being treated like animals.  They can kill each other.”  Perhaps they may be right.  But if they commit heinous crimes, who speaks for the cruelty to the victims?  Remember, these are people who will never get parole, or be executed anyway.  They have effectively earned the right to be exiled from U.S. society and perhaps its norms, in exchange for a system where they can live among themselves.

ESCAPE?

These prisoners would essentially have their own private remote island with the nearest major life, according to prevailing trade winds, about 1,600 miles in the Marshall Islands.  These are a set of atolls, themselves divided into 1,156 tiny islands.  If one were to get past the guards, he or she would need to have sailing and navigational skills and build a craft worthy enough to combat the harsh conditions of the raging ocean.

Next, would be the issue of food and water.  Assuming tremendous luck and a true, consistent route, the successful escape would require moving at least 50 miles a day (in the correct direction) for 33 straight days.  Getting enough food and water to last for four weeks (per individual escapee) would be quite a trick.

Plus, any time someone tries to escape, and gets off the island, no one on the island knows if the ‘convict castaway’ made it.  Without feedback, they lose hope and cling to the desire to stay safe, secure, and relatively well-fed on the island.  It’s simple behavioral psychology – man desires to stay alive.  He (or she) will seek whatever means necessary to do so.

Allotting $2 billion for the buildings and say $500 million for guards, food, clothing and sanitation each year, at today’s costs of up to $740,000 per prisoner for life, the Pacific Prisons could instantly save up to $20 billion!  Plus billions more each year.  Let’s remember, this is just on 2% of the entire prison population.

This could also provide a window to remove the death penalty in many, if not all states.   This may offer some solace to who oppose it, but only insomuch as they don’t think about the ‘survival of the fittest’ on the prison island.  But it would save tremendously on taxpayer expense for the majority of these cases needlessly tying up the court system.

And what of deterrence?  The criminals or future criminals who understand that “lifer” crimes will lead them to a self-policing island without three square meals, medical care, and electricity, may think at least twice.  Fear is an excellent motivator.  

Cost savings aside, there is the fact that, with less crime, criminal cases and reduced death sentence appeals, there may be less jobs for prosecutors, police departments and state-appointed attorneys.  I think I can live with that.

Jan 192014
 
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5373670168_e88553c29bThis is one of my “why hasn’t someone made that yet?” inventions.  It came to me one day when I opened the refrigerator, reached for the one-percent milk, looked at the expiration date, and noticed it was the same day’s date.  

So like any reasonably intelligent person who wants to be sure, I smelled the milk and – yuck…but just for a second. Then it smelled normal!  Hmmm…..

No discoloration, but I couldn’t take the chance.  Plus, I am one of those people who you may call ‘low level-phobic’, as I am inclined to throw away milk or any perishable item on its last quantity-legs, far faster than others.  Does anyone really like to drink the last of the soda?

So what happens when we smell the milk – and it’s a toss-up.  What if you have a cold and can’t do the smell?  Now you really could be out of luck.  

Not to mention, that this printed date on milk has always been a thorn in my mind – errr….side.  Does it mean it’s the “still good” date even after you’ve opened the milk?  Or does it begin from the day it was packaged, even if it stays unopened?  Oh, my mind just swims and swims.  

Here’s a fact.  In the U.S., more than 76 million cases of food-borne illness occur each year.  According to the Food and Drug Administration, such cases have resulted in more than 32,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.  But in the other corner are those who hate to waste.  Because, studies as far back as 1995 point out that retailers lost nearly 17.4 billion pounds of milk per year because consumers assumed it was spoiled.  

Enter the smart guys.  In 2012, scientists from Tufts University created a sticker made of gold and silk fibers that would stick to a food item and determine its edibleness.  But have you seen it commercially?  Additionally, there is currently a product called The Milk Maid, a quart size milk jug in a glass container that plugs into a ‘smart base’ in your fridge.  I think General Electric is testing it now with consumers.

The smart base of the Milkmaid is able to sense if your milk is spoiled or how soon it will spoil by using pH sensors. Milk, which is made up of nearly 90% water, normally has a pH level of near 6.7.  This makes it slightly acidic.  As the pH level drops, bacteria will make milk sour.  Hence, when it takes a drop, the drinking had better stop!  

So the Milk Maid is neat, to be sure.  But why should people have to buy an aftermarket product when something simpler could suffice?  So here goes…

 

THE INVENTION

This invention solves the problem of having to guess whether milk is fresh or not, and at a far cheaper price.  The technology is made by first making all milk caps transparent, instead of colored.  Next, place a small, circular, adhesive bio-sensor with semi-permeable membrane on the inside of the screw-on milk cap.  The inside layer of the sensor, facing the milk inside the carton, would block liquid, but allow gas molecules from the milk to pass through.  

The outside layer, pressing up against the inside of the plastic cap, would have a paper sensor with reagent, much like a dipstick for a urine test at the doctor’s office. This sensor would pick up an increase in carbon dioxide, a known gas offshoot of spoiling milk.  As the CO2 levels begin to increase, it would hit the reagent on the paper tab and change color. 

Perhaps the paper sensor would be colored white when first purchased, and stay white for as long as the milk is fresh. However, once the milk gives off enough carbon dioxide to be ‘freshness-questionable’, the paper would change from white to red.  Anyone picking up the milk could see the color change through the transparent milk cap.  

STOP!  NOT ANOTHER DROP!

Guess what?  You can bring the same concept for deli meat baggies at the grocery store.  Sure cheese turns blue, but do you really know when the roast beef becomes stale meat?