Alternative Medicine and Regulation

A few years back, I got to spend a few minutes with Earl Bakken after a conference. The guy exudes vision… There are certain execs that have this amazing vision. Earl’s vision since he retired was one of hi-touch medicine. A concept that one would think odd coming from the founder of a biomedical company. Yet the one thing that shown through was a commitment to the patient beyond a commitment to the quarterly report.

There is much to be said about alternative medicine, my traditional stance has been a high degree of skepticism. There is little regulation, and much snake oil. Otoh, there is anecdotal evidence of success in some areas. To a skeptic such as myself, that presents a problem. However, 50 years ago, decisions were based upon anecdotal evidence rather than tightly controlled double blind studies. Even today, when its easy to do more detailed and comphrehensive methods, the double blind is the most common, slowest, and most expensive method, yet its paradigm of being the only trusted solution keeps it around. Anecdotal evidence is not the answer either. The gaps are just too large.

If we take a look at the TENS, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulators had they not been developed years ago and created a track record of success, there is no way they would make it through the FDA today. There is still much to be understood, and thats an issue the FDA has a problem with. Sure, no one wants to harm a patient, otoh, the lack of progress is frightening as our population ages.

I’d hate to see it happen in alternative medicine to the degree the FDA controls things. Yet, with all the snake oil, and even inept salespeople at mall stores selling serious drugs without any license, it does make me wonder. Unlike Earl’s early days, where they went from testing on a dog, to human application in 24 hours in order to possibly save a life, the profit motive in alternative medicine is often times the driving force rather than the health of the patient.

A few simple questions on basic physiology, and treatment methodology are quick ways to determine if a company, product, or salesman has a profit or patient motive. The BS answer makes it profit, the no problem its natural makes it profit. The correct answer, and screening questions upfront create a great deal of credibility, and may indicate that its the patient rather than the profit.

A supplement salesman tried to sell an herbal concoction to a friend of mine… they got an earful for giving unqualified, and incorrect medical advice. Obviously profit was the motive, not the patient. Had he taken the concoction, it may well have meant a trip to the ER. Thats a little scary.

Some folks believe if something is natural its safe… Hmmm, tobacco comes to mind. Then again, tobacco is an amazing tool for transgenic manipulation. It may well become the wonder of manufacturing for pharmaceutical processes in the future.

Its too bad, the legitmate practices of alternative medicine will get seriously regulated when people die from poorly controlled supplement manufacuring processes, or end up having pregnancy complications from natural herbs. It will be interesting to see how things shake out.

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Social Network Mapping

TouchGraph GoogleBrowser V1.01
This is sort of a fun way to take a look at your blog. You may find some rather odd linkages to things you never knew before. There is a huge amount of power in looking at these interrelationships.

I took a look at some commercial websites…. wow!!! one can see who the interelated companies are, and who are the ones that don’t listen. It is interesting to take a look at National Semicoductor, and their relationship with Motorola. Amazing, that mot is off on their own with only minor linkages. Then again this can explain why the semi group is being separated

Getting back to the world of blogging. Kevin Rose has some very interesting connections, not the least of which is Sarah Lane.

Mine looks pretty scary, almost the realm of the blackhat. To some extent, my writings on open source, linux, and internet security, must be getting crossed to other who write on simliar topics. It is interesting.

Social network mapping has some profound applications in pre-business analysis, as well as marketing techniques. One can really see the positives of this approach. Otoh, the privacy issues, and market reluctance are going to take some time to be resolved. It is very interesting non the less.

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Tuition increases and criminal justice

The MN Speaker of the House stopped by a year or two ago. I gave him a piece of my mind concerning post secondary education, as its getting shorted and yet funding for criminal justice grow and grows.

In the last 20 years, state funding for post secondary education has dropped as a percentage of the state budget multifold. In a neighboring state, its dropped by 41%. Yet our taxes keep going up and up and up.

Criminal Justice, eg courts, jails, and who knows who’s personal pockets change has increased multifold. It appears we put higher value on paying judges and lawyers than we do on educating our young. Something is dead wrong here.

Most of the time legal public servant wages are below pay scale. Thats as it should be, perhaps they should be even lower in the power positions, eg judges and attorneys. They take on those jobs, as a friend who took on a clerkship at the US supreme court explained to me for power and networking, not to make money. The same thoughts were echoed by a district attorney friend years ago. I wonder if perhaps they should be paid a grad student stipends instead of a wage, as the non-cash portion of the position is much more valueable.

Jails are another idiotic trend. We keep building more and more of them all the time. Are we as a society that more violent than the 50’s? I really doubt it. Do we have idiotic laws that make the regular joe a criminal, probably.

The speaker of the house explained it to me as protecting the citizens. Sure, no one wants a murderer or rapist running at large. Otoh, putting someone in jail for failure to have car insurance, writing a bad check, or drug possession makes little sense. Such folks do not cause huge damage to the public at large for their act, but they do cause huge damage by the costs incurred to incarcerate them.

If we reduce the funding for jails, change the compensation system to a state school grad student stipend for those in judicial and legal positions and fund education, we can once again return to a state of knowledge and education. I don’t think the judicial system would suffer much at all, there would be rapid turnover, career positions as judges and public attorneys would end, and we would no longer have productive citizens sitting in jail costing money.

However, so much of the political world revolves around the legal profession, such a concept would never happen. It would be counterproductive to the good old boys network.

The cool part is the MN judicial system was crying uncle to the governor as they got passed over in the budget process. They desparetly wanted a special session to fund it. It looks like it failed, yahoo!!! The judicial system should be under even more stringent budget cutting than the education system. In secondary ed, its not that uncommon for teachers to have a yearly take home pay decrease. I think the judicial system should have their cut as well, ideally to the level of a grad student stipend, but even 4% would be good.

What I’m afraid of, is that the idiots will shift the cuts away from their good old boy network, and pass it on to law enforcement. Thats shifting from preventative to reactionary, or as an MD friend calls it fix-me medicine. If you want to control crime, prevent it. Police presence makes a world of difference. One can hire a number of public service officers for much less than the cost of a judge. It may be possible even to hire 2 policemen for less than a judge, even if you look at the fully burdened expenses.

However, the police have little pull. They get their chain yanked around by the incompetants. Its too bad that we favor reactive rather than preventative measures. The positive outcome of the increases in anti-terrorism funding is more emphasis on law enforcement, not the judicial sections. It is a winning solution imho.

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Pathology, Sewage, and Supplements

Article: Sewage waters a tenth of world’s irrigated crops�| New Scientist

Everytime I come across a health related article I get a good laugh. Are people so far removed that this seems strange, wrong, or is new to them. Amazing, the amount of hoopla things generate. Then again, as stated in the article, “..Water, health, and agriculture ministires outlaw the practice, but refuse to reconginize it is widespread.” Gee, even govt’s put their head in the sand.

However, the one thing no one brings up is more insideous. Lets say, we have a really bad scenario, where in a animal with a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy is butchered. The resulting waster water stream is then used for irrigation. Next we add in the affinity of lettuce as a carrier. Now we wait 3-5 years. All of a sudden we have a nasty situation, Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease is showing up everywhere. Talk about a pita to track that back to the source. What do we call it for short, mad lettuce disesase??? Of course in reality, the probability of successful priontransport along that path is extremely minute, if even possible. Yet it has been shown that other pathogens can make the trip.

Another tough pathology tracking scenario would be the world of nutritional supplements. Many are grown organically, eg, manure, or more typically liquid manure. They are also advertised as natural…. In other words, no post processing. As such, we are now subjecting our bodies to pathogens much worse than might ever be in the sewer. Just think of the 100,000 gallon petri dish with little control that is used to create the natural organic nutritional supplements. Then throw in the situation where in contamination can occur anywhere along the path, and it gets really scary. I thought this article which mentions hexachlorobenzne in ginseng supplements was especially interesting.

Whats the solution? sustainable ag, know your food source, grow your one. Even Ted’s Kill It and Grill it looks like a better idea for performance, than any supplement. Especially when the herbal based ones may be tweaked with steroids or epherdra to boost sales.

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Jerk and New Product Development

VentureBlog: Accelerating Acceleration

One of the commenters on Andrew Ankers blog brought to light an interesting concept. The derivative of acceleration is jerk, something learned way back when in high school physics classes. He also stated that marketers not engineers are in control, and jerk will increase as product development becomes more customer centric. Responding to fluctuating customer demand is a good thing. The challenge we have is to put processes in place to do so.

I saw 2 potential product failures this week. It was almost as if the products were designed on the moon. The desginers apparently did little or no consumer application testing. I wonder if by chance, they were planning on accelerating accelration so quickly, they forgot to get consumer input.

One went down the path thinking that foreboding warnings nn the manual would make up for possible mis-applications. Whoa, they missed the application path. If one follows their warnings, the product cannot be used. The analogy would be to build a new refrigerator, but then in the manual state that you could not place food in it. Sure there are markets for non-food refrigerators, but, you don’t market those to the consumer who wants a fridge. This outfit chose to market to the home user who wants a new fridge, even designed the packaging and advertising to target them. However, the designers didn’t see food storage as a key feature, they just made something to cool. Talk about missing the mark. And no, the product is not a fridge, but it is a consumer item.

The other one was terrible as well. They had a good goal in mind. Provide a solution to the customers problem. One solution, a simple narrow solution at a low price with high volume. Sounds good in theory, but you are banking on the fact that your one and only feature works good enough to make it through the early adoptor phase. The problem is, they did zero real world testing. 5 minutes with the new product, and it was obvious it was going to die. My predicition is their will be a ton of these in liquidation and dollar stores.

Its too bad, the outfit spent a fortune on packaging, marketing, and graphics. Unfortunately, the engineers did what they were told, they didn’t question it, they just picked up the spec and filled it out. Without exciting the early adoptors, there will be little market penetration. This product in 5 years might have been a good idea. A simple no frills solution to compete with an establised volume market. However, this outfit chose to go high volume from the get go at low cost and one bare bones feature. The perception is created that the product is flakey. Its not, its actually does work as promoed…. but, they have a quality perception issue to solve, (which would be taken care of through consumer experience) and the single feature and its cheap implementation are not going to help.

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Bob is the oil guy

Bobistheoilguys Main Page

This is an interesting page for car folks. I found the section on gear oil additives especially interesting. I not a big fan of additives, we found lots of problems with them back in the 80’s. The tests shown on bobtheoilguys page are pretty convincing.

There is also a forum, and although one must be skeptical of some of the dicussions. Overall, the content is pretty decent.

Lastly, one of the sponsors sells the toilet paper filter. Years ago, my boss had one of those on his 60’s bug. It was amazing as to how well it worked. I think he had upwards of 200,000 miles on that motor. He forgot to take it off when he sold the car, and then he couldn’t find another one. I’m glad to hear they are still in business. (although I must admit I’m skeptical).

The other thing of interest was some oil filter flow tests. Although Fram has a bad name, due to a change in construction techniques. It was interesting to note that it showed much higher flow than most. Of course they ran the testing at room temperature, and of course things change as temp increases.

There is a lot of info there. It’s not up to par with the SAE oil documents, but its a very informative read non-the-less. The oil standards, and lubrication data from the SAE are really comprehensive. They can also be a little bit tough to read at times due to the depth.

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spamgourmet – free disposable email addresses, spam blocking

spamgourmet – free disposable email addresses, spam blocking

This is super cool. I use hotmail and now yahoo extensively as my primary contact address. Only after a trusted relationship is established do I use my real address. Even then, I still get spam, but its reduced quite a bit. This service is even better.

Spamgourmet is super cool, you can get confirmation emails forwareded to you up to a number you specify. And then it kills off the email account.

Its a great idea!!!

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Stage-Gate – A way to win against the big boys

Stage-Gate, Inc. – Giving Wings to New Product Development

Stage Gate development is some new ideas combined with old tested and true methodology. Its sort of a book of the month approach to project management used by the big boys. Its also a great way to bolster ones consulting business.

The orderly approach has great value. The time spent on decisions and research amongst disjointed teams may have less value. The meeting times required may or more likely may not have value. The exclusion of real customer feedback early on is a serious drawback. One company I know of gets some of the customers skin early on to mitigate that. I think they are going to be a force to be reckoned with, if they can pull it off.

One interesting part that bears mention is that Stage Gate creating a framework which is set up to kill the project just before launch. As contradictory as it sounds, thats not a bad thing.

A small business can use the pluses of Stage Gate project management with some modifications to win against the big boys. Larger organizations thrive on order, not chaos, and thats one of the things we can leverage to our advantage. We can also use the large company approach of killing a project pre-release if need be with much less fallout.

Continue reading Stage-Gate – A way to win against the big boys

LMV2011 a cool op amp for low level signals

LMV2011.pdf (application/pdf Object)

The LMV2011 has really decent power supply rejection ratio. Most of the time, its a fake advertising spec, as its only valid for DC to a few Hz. If you try to use the average opamp in audio, it will pass 60Hz hum like there is no tomorrow. While the LMV2011 is overkill for audio, its is cool that NSC published PSRR vs Frequency. Amazing!!!

The other cool thing is its low noise 35nV/sqrrt(Hz) with no 1/f. Looks like the guys did a good job on this one. Its pretty flat up to 20KHz!!! It’s light years better than the choppers of old, which created hidous amounts of hash.

They ditched the confound kovar lead frame and used copper!!! For the instrumentation guy this is amazing. It makes life much easier as you can get away with a little less pcb layout tweaking to deal with thermal gradients due to the reduced seebeck effect of solder/copper vs solder/kovar. It also gives one some confidence in using tiny parts…. its hard to balance the pcb thermals when things get so small. With the copper lead frame, its a lot less critical. Now if only we could create a gas tight crimp to the IC…..

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