Medical Mysteries

One of the things I am least fond of hearing when visiting the doctor is the comment that my ‘x’ varies from the standard and the only way to bring it within the bounds is with medication — diet and exercise will have no effect. This has always irritated me — somehow it seems like the medical industry exists to transfer money from my pocket to the drug companies and the side-effects I experience are just unfortunate collateral damage.  (Oh, I have been sitting in the doctors office when those cute things they send out from the drug companies come calling — they never need an appointment and just brush past everyone…) Where does this ‘standard’ come from and why should I suffer to hammer my body into compliance? Well, recently I read a study done over the last few years where a large cohort of men aged 30 to 70 were evaluated for ‘good heart health’ — and much to everyones’ surprise, only 1% or so fell within the ‘standard’.  Some of the medical folks I know get very upset when I ask these little questions, seems calling something a ‘standard’ makes it beyond reproach and question — no matter how unrealistic  it may be.  And to my simple mind, if analysis of a representative group finds a norm different from the ‘standard’ then its the ‘standard’ that is wrong, not everyone else. Lets face it, I do not have the body of a 20 year old Olympic gymnast (and never did) and nothing I can do will ever transform me into one — although, at age 64 I can still put my hands flat on the floor by bending forward. So I don’t see why it should be ok, even desirable, to badger me to take expensive medications to force my body to pretend like it was 20 again.  Much easier, cheaper and probably healthier to just act my age and not poison myself unnecessarily. [Undoubtedly heresy…]

Program Not Responding

Has anyone noticed how increasingly prevalent the message ‘not responding’ is when they try to do anything on a computer? I certainly have. Interestingly, the user interface notices that and gives us this little friendly message — but we are trapped there none the less. At least in the old days when the hourglass would slosh back and forth there was something to look at. But apparently no more. I guess that we are all supposed to be pitching our computers every few months and replacing them with ‘more’ to keep up with the current bloatware. We don’t.

Our typical computer has been in regular use for five or more years. We have one 64bit capable machine that runs Windows 7, the rest are XP or W2003. They are paid for and adequate for the job. Oh, it means replacing cooling fans (always fun in a laptop), hard drives and batteries.  But we are spared the horror of seaching for a familiar and regularly used command that has been either dropped or moved someplace else because the latest crop of college interns thought it would be cool.

I know larger firms regularly replace all their computers — has to do with the high cost of the labour to make any changes, despite all the sysadmin programs they have invested in. I have bought a couple of these castoffs over the years, work just fine with a bit of cleanup. Usually need to add memory to make them useful. Everything we have is maxed out in that department.

So when the computer tells me ‘not responding’ I am sure that somewhere deep down some piece of bloatware is lumbering through its appointed task — and if I were not so cheap I would be running it on a 16 core multi-teraflop machine instead of what I do. But then, with the industries relentless insistence on bloatware rather than making things work reliably — I think the message really is ‘The computer industry is not responding to your needs.’ And I hate that — another rich tool that is being lost in crudware, just like the 100’s of channels on TV with absolutely nothing to watch. What a waste.

Crime, Disorder and the Civic Good

The Globe&Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson had a column today about playing politics with crime — the current government being obsessed with spending more money on prisons, creating new crimes to put even more people in prison, and so forth. This is not inexpensive and as usual the boys are very coy about how much it will cost. And the recent spectre of the G20 shows that force can and will be used to suppress views not concurrent with their own.

Meanwhile, the education system is slowly starving of funds, unemployment is rising even in places populated with many prisons, and mental health programs are being slowly dismantled and the staff who work in them brutalized by increasingly unrealistic working conditions.

So it will gradually become even more expensive for the taxpayers, and since the causes of crime remain unabated, even enhanced, crime will rise. We will have achieved the worse of all possible worlds.

Why is it so difficult for these folks to tackle the root causes instead of the end results?  Slapping back at crime is a jerk reaction to current problems to be sure. But to address the sociological roots of crime require two things that appear in short supply within the Canadian ruling class. They need to look beyond their agendas and ‘principles’ and look at the world as it is. And they need vision to see the developing results of their compassion-lite approach.

At one point, Ontario had a network of residential mental health facilities where people could be housed who were not capable of functioning in society. So in a fit of ‘Con’ compassion-lite these folks were forced into the community and the facilities closed (although at least one has been re-opened under private US management). When their violence brings them into contact with the law they may go into a critical care hospital facility for a while ($$$) before going off to prison for a cooling off period. Then back into society to repeat the whole cycle.

So in typical fashion the ‘Cons’ are saving short term dollars and maximizing long term costs. Other recent examples have been closing the prison farms and shifting food sources from locally produced to commercial purchases from California and Mexico. Or the KGH move to dismantle its kitchens and buy packaged meals from Toronto or shut down their laundry to ship dirty linens to a commercial plant in Ottawa, two hours up the road. So fewer local jobs, higher costs long term — a success all around. And let us not forget health care — adding layers of intermediate management organizations between the front lines (squeezed more and more to contain costs) and the top, countless new and well paid management positions. But basic performance statistics are not maintained so management is realisticly impossible. Probably a line item in a future strategic plan just below picking out the new panelling and carpets for the executive offices.

I would suggest that the common thread on all of this is a willful blindness about the world around them, a lack of vision and a short term focus that leaves the future to take care of itself. In a way, there is always plenty of money and time for damage control.