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Thursday, July 27, 2017

An awful lot about not much... but interesting

Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Bulgaria

Fake news test: Which is real, which is not.

Bulgaria is the only country whose name ends in "ulgalia."

This is true.

FYI: Bulgaria is one of the few exotic nations of Europe. I boasts sublime beaches, lovely churches, winter sports and great hiking. It has traditionally not been regularly visited by Westerners but is gaining in popularity with its beauties and wide range of activities.


Even after grants and scholarships, the typical family making less than $30,000/year needs to pay 77% of its income to cover the costs of a four-year public college.

Also true.

When escalators first appeared, they had escalator men who would ride with passengers similar to elevators who had elevator men working in them.

Gotcha! False.
Three billion light years away (186,000 miles per second x all the seconds in three billion years) the merger of two black holes--one 19 times more mass than our sun and one 31 times--released more energy in the form of gravitational waves than all the stars in our observable universe.

Absolutely true... and utterly mind-blowing, even if I understood it.

President Trump called Kim Jung Un a "smart cookie" and James Comie a "nut job."

Sadly, true.

An Ohio woman, impatiently awaiting her son's slow haircut at a local barber college, whipped out a pistol and pointing it at the young barber, warned him to hurry, "I've got two clips! I'll pop you!" So he did.

It's America. True.
La Plat Sal (The Dirty Plate) Parisian restaurant offers four-star recipes featuring dirt... or as its' chefs call it, "the mud of the earth that caresses our toes, the sand kissed by the sun, and rocks." And no, the prices are not down to earth. It's Paris.

Deliciously true.

A child born into a high-income family is six-times as likely to earn a college degree as one who is poor.

Duh! True. Rich usually wins.

 There are more than 50 words in Gaelic relating to seaweed.

Whew. False thank goodness. Who needs 50 ways to say seaweed. Real answer: 40 words.

Prehistoric cave paintings suggest that early man was most interested in primitive art.

Well, true. Post modern didn't come along til later.

"Adam and Eve on a Raft" is what breakfast joints call bacon and eggs on toast. "Wreck 'em" means scrambled.

True... with a cuppa joe


Adam and Eve populated our world.

Hmm... true, the bible tells me so... unless you don't think it happened that way, then false... or will you be sorry later?

FYI: Could two people actually repopulate the world today? Here's a good take on that.

SO HERE'S THE DEAL... what separates real from fake news is often what we choose to believe which is often shaped by who tells us that. And in today's incredibly broad social media world, anyone can say anything... absolutely anything... and there will ALWAYS be someone to pass it on as if it came from God him/herself. 

But remember Absolute Rule No. 1: if you believes something that isn't true, believing it still doesn't make it true. And that's a fact. Smart means double checking or find another source for anything that has a smell to it.

Ed. Note: Thanks NY Times and humorist, film maker Demetri Martin for a few good examples.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A STICK-UP MAN'S CODE: Creeds, Mottoes, Slogans and Rules that have Shaped America

"Neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from swift completion of their appointed rounds" 

Coffee shop buddy Ed (I miss him) loaned me Brian Burrell's book, Words We Live By--three different times--because he thought I'd enjoy it. He was right. It is filled declarations, creeds, mottoes, slogans, sayings, advice and rules--everything from the unofficial U.S. Post Office motto to... 

Looking down the barrel of a gun
A Stick-Up Man's Code: (from a list of personal rules that were found in his wallet when he was arrested):
  1. I will not kill anyone unless I have to.
  2. I will take cash and food stamps--no checks.
  3. I will rob only at night.
  4. I will not wear a mask.
  5. I will not rob mini-marts or 7-Eleven stores.
  6. If chased by cops on foot, I will get away. If chased by a vehicle I will not put the lives of innocent civilians on the line.
  7. I will only rob seven months of the year.
  8. I will enjoy robbing from the poor to give to the poor. 
Other words include our Declaration of Independence and the many official documents that shape our lives... the sublime and less so.

A sign in New York's Empire Diner says: "Be nice. Don't shout. Sit up straight. Don't play with your food. Have a nice day. Take care. Don't be a stranger. Murray, call your mother." 

There is a Declaration of Principles by the Pacific Ice Cream Manufacturers' Association, Robert's Rules of Order that governs democratic meetings, The Boy Scout's code, The Marquis of Queensberry rules for boxing, ("No hitting below the belt,") A Mid-Wife's Oath, Parkinson's Law, ("Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."), not to be confused with Parkinson's Law of Triviality, ("The time spent on any item of the agenda will be inverse to the sum of money involved."), Murphy's Laws, ("Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, No good deed goes unpunished, A short cut is the shortest distance between two points,") and so forth. Every organization has bylaws and rules that govern its purpose.

Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues is there as are Sir Walter Raleigh's Instructions to his Son. And Google says "Do no evil."

The book also includes our Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, the Ten Commandments, AA's 12 steps, The Chicago Cubs team rules of 1913 (which make no mention of never winning the World Series for at least 104 years), Jack London's Code, The Official Creed of Elvis Presley Impersonators International (Yeah, really), The Hippocratic Oath and The Clown Code ("No more than 18 in a car at any time," No shoe size smaller than 34 EEEE, etc".) OK, so I fudged that last one... but clowns do have their rules.

Most of all though, it has The Golden Rule stated in many ways:

"I got a simple rule about everybody. If you don't treat me right, shame on you!" Louis Armstrong said that in the 1970s. 
In 325 B.C. Aristotle was asked how we ought to behave to our friends. "As we wish our friends to behave to us," he said.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," in one form or another, is found scripturally in Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. It is a moral acknowledgement of how to lead a good life.

Socrates, Aristotle, Samuel Clarke, John Wise, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Sedgwick, Petr Aleksevich Kropotkin, Malcolm X, Alan Gewirth and Louis Armstrong, to name just a few, have stated in writings and speeches... in many, many languages... in many different words... from so many ages... their expression of The Golden Rule.

It is not to be misconstrued as "He who has the gold, rules," or, "I don't get mad, I get even." These are usually followed by a hollow laugh, as if to say, "Not really."

But, really!

We sometimes seem to live more by those 'anti-golden rules' than the real thing. We have had wars forever, you know. I guess I'm feeling especially moralistic today. As a society of humans, wouldn't you think we can be better than we are?

Yeah, really!

Monday, July 10, 2017

I have a friend who takes his own EKG... and showed the way to an out-of-the-box solution to our health care conundrum.

This is his actual EKG... he took it himself and sent it to his doctor.

He has atrial fibrillation (A-fib), an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating. A-fib is associated with an increased risk of heart failure and stroke. Fortunately, it can be monitored and managed.

His onsets are usually sporadic rather than constant, with some episodes lasting just minutes. But they can and have continued longer, occasionally triggering action.  Without an EKG at the time of an event, there will be no record to build a technical history. So the ability to record an event as it happens is an enormous benefit to good health. (Note: the doctor suggested this process viewing the readings as credible.)

Even if your doctor could record your EKG at the moment it is happening, that procedure would cost significantly for each event, without even considering your need for an appointment and waiting a schedule.

AliveCor app
So my friend, and many like him, are turning to an app on their smartphones to do the job. Yes, believe it. This app (with interface) that took these reading cost $99 because a device interface that records the EKG input is necessary. The reading appears on your phone and may be emailed to your doctor in minutes. There are other apps available free that require no interface (your finger over the camera eye) but his app, AliveCor by Kardia, seemed the better choice. His device is mounted on the back of his  iPhone cover and is always with him. How convenient is that?

This blog however is NOT about my friend's A-fib resolve but what this growing technology allows for in other applications. It is seen by some as the 'out-of-the-box' solution to a better way of harnessing the octopus that is affordable health care for the masses. Best of all, it has a simple-to-understand logic which, in today's world of political victory at any cost, could be read as it's death knell.

Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, says in a WSJournal essay, "Our health-care system won't be fixed by insurance reform. To contain costs and improve results, we need to move aggressively to adopt the tools of information-age medicine." He calls that, "The Smart-Medicine Solution to the Health-Care Crisis."

"No matter how the debate in Washington plays out... we will still be stuck with astronomical and ever-rising health care costs." Projections by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that health spending in the U.S. will grow at a rate of 5.8% a year through 2025, far outpacing GDP growth.

"Our health care system is uniquely inefficient and wasteful," Topol says. "The more than $3 trillion that we spend each year yields relatively poor health outcomes, compared with other developed countries that spend far less."

While he acknowledges that containing costs and improving care is accepted and necessary, it is what we, the patients can now do to greatly help in both areas. "In my three decades as a doctor," Topol says, "I have never seen such an acceleration of new technology, both hardware and software, across every dimension of medical practice. The new tools are not just more powerful, precise and convenient, they are more economical, driven by the information revolution's ability to deliver." 

Now, heart and blood pressure readings can be credibly delivered regularly, if necessary, by the patient him/herself. "The Food and Drug Administration has already approved wearable sensors that can continuously monitor all vital signs: blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, body temperature, breathing rate and oxygen concentration in the blood, for a fraction of the cost for a day in the hospital."

"We now have ultrasound probes that connect with a smartphone an provide exquisite resolution'" he says, "comparable to hospital lab machines. It is possible to examine any part of the body (except the brain) simply by connecting the probe to the base of a smartphone and putting a little gel on the probe's tip. When I first got a smartphone ultrasound probe last year, I did a head-to-toe 'medical selfie,' imaging everything from my sinuses  and thyroid to my heart, lungs, liver, gallbladder, aorta and left foot." 

And his reading showed a kidney abnormality, he was subsequently diagnosed with a kidney stone confirmed by a doctor's CT scan.

Conclusion: Imagine how this could work to reduce hospital stays and any subsequent hospital-driven complication that, statistically, happens 25% of the time. This ties into so many other areas to improve health care at what could amount to significant savings in time, efficiency, diagnosing insight and stress. A person's genome sequencing--identifying all three billion genes--can now be done for about $1,000 and leading to smart alerts and early monitoring.

Whoa! What have we got here... a technical breakthrough on a level of discovery of a cure for cancer or... who knows. 

If affordable health care is seen as a Rubik's Cube of variable options, then to take this path could well be the key to the puzzle that, before now, hasn't been in the picture. Are we on the cusp of another Wright brothers-like event?

Yes, it will be hell to go from here to there as technology evolves and this becomes the political football with lobbyists, the insurance and health industries, political detractors, patients themselves and at every turn, for every reason. But couldn't a President (whoever that is, now or soon) do a "Kennedy?"

On May 25, 1961, after the Russians had put the first man into space, leaving us greatly embarrassed and deeply concerned about being beaten into this future frontier, John F. Kennedy proclaimed to a special session of Congress and the American people, the goal of sending an American to the moon before the end of the decade.

On July 20, 1969, Apollo commander Neil Armstrong stepped off the Lunar Module's ladder onto the Moon's surface... a moment of great national pride.

If we can do that, couldn't we do this, to the great benefit of all Americans? Come on Donald, or whoever, say something.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

There it is! The International Space Station streaking across your sky, maybe right now.

If you haven't seen this marvel of the modern world streaking across your sky at nearly five-miles per minute, you must! In fact, you just might be able to see it tonight. 

It is a splendid, awe-inspiring sight looking at the International Space Station with American Astronauts Peggy Whitson, Jack Fisher and Russian Cosmonaut and mission commander Fyodor Nikolayevich Yurchilhin aboard.

 This is how they see us. 

                                                        This is how we see them.
The International Space Station (ISS) is the most complex international scientific and engineering project in history and the largest structure humans have ever put into space. This high-flying satellite is a laboratory for new technologies and an observation platform for astronomical, environmental and geological research. As a permanently occupied outpost in outer space, it serves as a stepping-stone for further space exploration. 
You know we plan to go to Mars in the 2020s and the list of those desiring to be on that first 9-month flight is in the thousands, all with the knowledge that they will not come back, living the rest of their lives on the Red Planet. That's exploring for you.
The initial ISS module was put into space in November, 1998 and received its first crew in November, 2000. It has been built on and continually occupied by various multi-nation crews. Current plans call for its use through 2020 and no doubt, beyond.
The space station flies at an average altitude of 248 miles above Earth. It circles the globe every 90 minutes at a speed of about 17,500 mph, 15 revolutions a day. In one day, it travels about the distance it would take to go from Earth to the moon and back. The space station can rival the brilliant planet Venus in brightness and appears as a bright moving light across the night sky. It can be seen from Earth without the use of a telescope by you when know when and where to look, which I will show you in a few paragraphs.
Five different space agencies representing 15 countries built the $100-billion International Space Station and continue to operate it today.
A full size duplicate of the module core and cockpit can be seen in Seattle's Museum of Flight and it is definitely worth the trip. Oh, an you can see a retired SST and many other fascinating aircraft and lore. Definitely worth the trip if you love this stuff... and even if you don't.
Wanna' know where and how to see the ISS (International Space Station) over your skies? Get the app ISS Spotter available free at ITunes and wherever free apps are given away. (I know, redundant, but cute.) 

The opening page of this app looks like this and it is a live show of the current ISS path around the globe and where it is at that precise moment. You can expand the page to see the whole earth and where it was the last two orbits. And you will be able to see how fast that bugger moves. It's an eye-opener itself.

 Then you go to page 2 and it lists the exact times and locations over where you are... and it is precise to the second. If you track it, you will see that just minutes before where you are, it is someplace over the Pacific, some impossible distance away. Amazing, really. It lists morning and evening viewing times over a number of days it is visible to you. And there are quite a few to choose from, you'd be surprised
So enjoy the amazing and the pioneers that took us there. 

FYI: I was at Kitty Hawk just a few months ago. The Wright brothers took the first ever flight in 1903--a mere 852 feet in 59 seconds, but a beginning.. It took us just a few generations to put a man on the moon in 1969. Maybe just another 60 years and we will put people on Mars. Where then? Now if we could just figure out how we can live on earth, THAT will be some accomplishment.