Oct 062014
 

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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.

 

 

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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
 

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.

Jun 222014
 

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
 

 

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.

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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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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
 

 

“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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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
 

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
 

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?

 

 

 

Jan 122014
 

8512557588_f5a4be7b43_oEach year, nearly 90 million Americans are struck with some level of back or neck pain.  Next to the common cold, more people visit doctors for back pain than any other symptomatic condition.  Neck pain alone affects nearly 45% of today’s workers, and is a regular malady for 12% of adults in the U.S.

Though I work largely in the insurance reporting industry, I’m proud to say I’ve also practiced chiropractic over the last twenty years.  During that time, I’ve examined and treated thousands of patients with a variety of health histories and conditions. Spine-related pain, in fact, has many different causes such as muscular, disc, nerve, pathological and congenital.  They each have their own distinct presentation.

Years of selectively sorting such patient findings has delivered a common denominator, which has been greatly overlooked in health provider offices.  I have documented it in nearly one-third of all patient cases. It’s spinal self-manipulation, that is, ‘cracking’ one’s own neck and back regularly.

Have you run into people who do this?  Do you do this?

Extrapolating my findings against the nation’s population, I surmise there are probably millions of teens and adults who regularly pop and twist their necks and backs.  Sometimes it’s done several times a day!  This addictive syndrome, adopted typically in younger years, helps to relieve stress, pain, nervousness, or anxiety. 

You’ve probably seen such individuals putting their hands on their chin and head, slowly twisting and then….snap!   Others roll their neck quickly or overstretch their lower spine to the point at which there is an audible cracking.  I’ve even watched students arching their backs over chairs, in order to obtain temporary stiffness relief.  

Anatomy tells us that our spines are made up of many spinal bones, or vertebra.  The joints of the spine do not have the same amount of motion as do the larger joints, like the shoulders, hips, and knees.  Because the bones of the spine interlock and work jointly, the motion of bending forward or sideways is shared throughout the spinal joints, each moving a little bit and adding to the others. So what’s the big deal here?

Normally, when you turn your neck or twist around, your spinal joints move in what is known as active range of motion.  But when a person forces their spine to go past that range, this commonly leads to overstretching ligaments, which causes the spinal column to become less stable in places.  As a result of the ligaments losing their healthy tension, nearby muscles  compensate to recapture spinal stability, thereby getting tighter and stiffer.  

The increased muscle tension makes the muscle and area around the spine feel tighter. As a result, the individual feels chronic and constant stress or stiffness – so they snap their neck or back over and over again.  It’s a habit that feeds into itself and may be a common contributor to early osteoarthritis in the spine.  

Simply stated, the problem with losing proper tension in the ligaments is that the spine can become hypermobile, or move too much.  According to Dr. Mark Wheaton, a board-certified pain management expert, in his paper, The Ligament Injury Connection to Osteoarthritis, “Disrupting ligaments increases the risk of cartilage injury and arthritis because the joint [ie. Neck/back] is no longer stabilized by the ligament structures”.  Injuries can cause such ligament disruption, but so can the frequent self-manipulation of one’s neck and lower back segments.  

Unlike chiropractic adjustments, in which the patient has his or her joints moved professionally, thereby gaining stability of the joints, the chronic self-manipulator’s habit grows more and more – and the stability lessens and lessens.  It often culminates to a point where the individual can no longer pop their joints because they have so badly overstretched the ligaments and tissues.  Hence, more constant and chronic aches.

This is not a habit easily resolved, because it requires the individual to go through a period of withdrawal, where some nagging pain and stiffness will most likely increase. Self-manipulation is highly addictive, and many people do it without thinking about it.  Proper chiropractic adjustments may offer help, but it is even more important to start strengthening the neck with exercises.  This may allow the muscles to become shorter and stronger, thereby helping to tighten back some of the ligaments.  But the individual DOES have to stop cold turkey for best results.

Cracking one’s knuckles, at least in one study, has shown itself to be a falsity.  I have seen chronic self-manipulators, who having no past injury, show signs of osteoarthritis at a very early age.  Perhaps the spine is different than the knuckles, in that it can move, or become misaligned in many more different directions.  Studies will need to be undertaken, if we are to understand more.  

I have a true passion for helping those, especially when it can stave off larger, future problems.  Having back pain, neck stiffness and osteoarthritis is bad enough for those who acquired it through prior injuries or means they couldn’t control.   In this case, kids and adults are unknowingly inflicting small repetitive stresses, which can possibly become larger problems down the road.  

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me.  My intent is to bring this to national attention.  

Jan 042014
 

110859301_5cc01c7ed5_o

Stay positive, man! 

Forgive and forget. 

Have patience. 

Turn the other cheek. 

Let go and let God. 

Nah…Not this week.  Instead, I’m going to let loose my rant on just a few of the most common things I run into that IRK me.  And while you may find this negative, in fact I find the written release quite cathartic and balancing.  

Now that we are all done talking about our New Years’ resolution and plans for successful execution, let’s move into those things for which we will not allow for our absolution.  I invite you to comment on those things that most frustrate or irk you.  

Be mindful that I will delete any comments from amateur therapists who tell me that it’s wrong to vent or ‘sound negative’.  So c’mon and send me your best!

 

#1 LOUD THUMPING MUSIC IN CARS

How many times have you pulled up to a stoplight and either heard the car next to you or behind cranking up the music to window shattering levels?  You want to ignore it, but the thumping bass permeates through that quarter-inch of skull and stays in here.  Damn…how long does a red light stay red anyway?  

I think that deep down inside, some of us would want to roll down the window and yell, “Turn that crap down!” .  Just the same, our eyes slyly drift to find the culprit, if only for a second.  Instantly, we measure him or her up for their potential response.  Would they open the door and walk over to your window?  Give you the single-finger salute? Drive after you with road rage?  Or perhaps honor your wishes?  

Standing up for the goodness of your ears may be even more difficult with those musical offenders having tinted windows, tattoos or wearing the ‘flat-brimmed baseball cap and sunglasses’ tandem.  Multiple passengers in the ‘rolling-jam-session-mobile’ always makes voicing your displeasure seem that much more impossible too.  

However, I have taken a completely new approach.  When I’m alone in my faithful SUV and run into such characters, I will start moving my head side-to-side, throwing up my shoulders and arms – performing the ‘seat dance of death’. Other times, if I am right next to the thumping, I have been known to put MY window down and turn up my music even louder than the next guys. I feel a little like George Costanza in Seinfeld when he says, “We’re gonna’ take it up another notch.”

The new response has generated zero fights or angry outbursts.  Some thumbs up, several laughs from the young crowd for my new dance moves, a few look-aways too.  God, how I wish I could invent a radio stun-gun to temporarily disable the electronics.  Dammit Jim…I’m a blogger, not an advanced electronics engineer from DARPA or MIT.  

 

#2 THE PERSON WHO STAYS PARKED IN THE SPOT YOU WANT

I don’t know about you, but when I go to my local Starbucks (aka ‘Four-Bucks’) for my morning tea, the parking spaces are always filled.  Ah, I just found someone who has come to their car door, gets in, and…and…

Okay, give them a few seconds to get settled.  Wait!  Why aren’t they putting on their seatbelt? Why are they pulling out their cellphone?  Why aren’t they starting up the car?  They…they aren’t pulling out – they’re settling in!  Breakfast in a parking spot?

And don’t even get me started on people who park improperly, filling up two spaces.

 

#3 PEOPLE WHO ALWAYS TALK ABOUT THEIR KIDS 

I have no problem at all when our friends or acquaintances talk about their kids and accomplishments – for a short time.  However, we have a group of friends that do nothing but tell us about their kids’ great accomplishments every time we have a conversation with them.  Every single time!  

Sometimes, my wife and I get lucky and they ask us about our kids.  But when we answer, they get that look in their eye.  You know the look – when they are working very hard to politely listen to your response.  But really, they are not paying attention.  Instead, they are just biting their lip to tell you all about their kids and one-up you.  

Do you know someone like this?  If you happen to mention your child was potty trained at two years old, they’ll reply that their child was potty trained before he or she could even walk.  If your kid can read at a 4th grade level, their child already has a book deal.  

Is it that these parents are looking to live vicariously through their children’s lives?  Do they have an inferiority complex? Insecurity about their job as parents?  Are they pushing their kids to be too perfect, risking the little ones having future depression or a failure complex?  

You know, I don’t need to be reminded about how incredible your kids accomplishments have been, in order to define them as a child, or you as a parent.  Instead of what school your son got into, how gifted he is, or how many touchdown passes he’s thrown for, perhaps these parents might try bragging about their kindness and good nature. For example, how they have chosen, on their own, to help the elderly neighbor with their lawn, or help dish out hot meals to the homeless. 

I’d sure like to see that on Facebook more often than their SAT scores and perpetual honor roll announcements.  

 

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