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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

And you say there's never anything good on television...

I had a bunch of cool alternate titles like:

"Narcissism personified" (that's a play on a Dramarama song, that none of you will get)

"Come see the sun in Indiana" (that one is only funny if you can see the breath coming out of my mouth, which is no longer terribly visible on the 10 year old videotape...also, Tate gets mad when I insult the state of Indiana; it's bad for business, or something)

"As you can see, my fifteen minutes were up a long time ago" (more sad than funny)

"Hoosier? Did that guy just call me a Hoosier? What the hell is a Hoosier?"



I just bought this DVD recorder, and I am slowly learning how to use it. The HDMI upconversion has a habit of making people (in non 16x9 formats) look short and fat, though it seems youtube stretches in the other direction to create a thin/natural appearing Michael.

Among the many neat features of the DMR ES-25: 1.3x playback. Skip the commercials, and you can watch an hour of television in about a half hour. Does the fact that I might want to do this say something about me or the sad state of television? At 1.3x normal speed, some movements appear a little jerky. The sound is automatically lowered (by 30%?), so nobody sounds like a chipmunk, but the sped up delivery does make everything sound a little commical...like an old talkie, perhaps.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The reason your grandmother cannot afford her heart medication.

I confess: Last night, I was unable to pass up dinner at Onotria...paid for by Genentech.

There were numerous reasons to attend:

1) Free wine country cuisine
2) An update on the treatment of NSCLC (not exactly my area of expertise), featuring Avastin and Tarceva
3) Something to do on Rainbow Night

I had sworn off big Pharma dinners for the last year, or so. Not for any moral or idealogical reasons, mostly because the lectures are usually boring (and no longer seem to be worth any continuing education). Also, as I remembered last night: no matter how nice the restaurant is, if you are dining with a party of 40, it will taste like the food at your cousin's wedding.

What I had not expected over dinner: Scolding from the oncologist sitting across from me. I think ICE oversold our job a little, causing him to think we're making life and death decisions about his patients. "Someone's got to do it", I replied, smiling. He was a little hard to understand, and after arguing with ICE all day, I really had no fight left in me.

In retrospect, "Someone's got to do it" was not that bad a response. In pretty much every country other than ours, the government 1) sets prices, and 2) decides which drugs they will pay for. I am not suggesting that either is a good idea, but someone has to do it. In this country, we rely on private industry to be the bad guy. Why is this necessary? Because a 30 day supply of Tarceva costs pretty close to $3000. Not bad to extend your life for two months, you say. Maybe not, but you have to take it for 10 months ($30,000) to see that benefit. And that's just Tarceva, I cannot even calculate how much the Avastin would cost for those extra two months.

Anyway, I guess I'll close with a joke. It's not a very funny joke, but it's sort of ironic, and sums up the American health system pretty well.

A famous surgeon presented his patient with a bill. The patient said, “I’m sorry but I cannot pay.”

The doctor then asked, "Can you pay half?” and the patient said, I’m sorry but I cannot pay that either.”

The doctor tried again. “How much can you pay?" ”Nothing" said the patient. The doctor was very upset and exclaimed, “If you couldn’t pay, then why did you choose me, the most renowned surgeon in the country to perform the operation. The patient answered, “ When it comes to my health, money is no object.”

Thursday, January 18, 2007

They send you off to college, try to gain a little knowledge...

The NY Times article is far more interesting than the actual study.

Immunizations: More Education May Not Mean More Vaccination

Dr. Kronenfeld, a professor of sociology in the School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University, offered a possible explanation for the difference between the children of college graduates and those of mothers who had not graduated from high school. “There is a controversy among more educated mothers about the safety of certain kinds of immunization,” she said. “That may be part of what is going on here, but we don’t know for sure.”

College girls: if you want your children to die of the mumps instead of having a minuscule (probably non-existent) increased risk of autism, that is okay with me. However, if your children catch the mumps, that makes my (vaccinated) children more likely to catch the mumps. I don't even have children, but I still object.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Some rare events.

There are not too many of us red headed Jews in the world. My father was bothered by this fact, and responded very harshly once to a Messianic "Jew" who told him I looked like a shegitz. It was a week before my bar-mitzvah, and we were at a sukkot party...after typing those last two sentences, I am left with 3 thoughts:

1) I am quite Jewish
2) Yiddish is mighty cool
3) That may very well have been the last time I was in a sukkot

I was thinking about these things when I realized that Don Leff has no web presence...just one of the pitfalls of dying before Al Gore invented the internet.

Back to those rare events; here are some things you might not see anywhere else:

Two red headed Jews climbing up the side of a building. What are we doing up there? Who are those girls in the window? I can no longer remember. A better reason: why are there bars on the windows?


And even more rare...never before seen on the internet:

Two red headed Jews in front of the Dead Sea Scrolls. You will not find too many pictures of anybody in front of the Dead Sea Scrolls, as photography is prohibited. If memory serves, 3 or 4 people took this picture; security confiscated the film from 2 or 3 of them...leaving one surviving picture. Perhaps it's easier to get a picture out of the place with a digital camera...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I thought I'd own the world when I turned 21.


Donald Howard Leff...friend to all who knew him.

Has it only been 14 years? I miss you buddy.
I am so sick of wimpy pharmacists.

Q. Do you have any suggestions on how to keep children from accidentally or purposefully taking prescription medication? Also, what are the dangers of taking expired medication?

A. "My personal belief is that parents have to be responsible," said Trisha Hufnagel, a pharmacist at UCI Medical Center Specialty Pharmacy.

Lock your prescriptions into a cabinet to keep children from getting to the drugs, Hufnagel suggested.

If your children have to take a daily medication, it may also be a good idea to purchase a daily container and ration out the medication, instead of handing out a bottle of 60 pills.

As for the second question, you should regularly go through your medicine cabinet and dump out any expired medication, Hufnagel said.

"There's an expiration date for a reason," she added.

For instance, heart medications may lose their potency after a certain time. Other medicine may disintegrate and can become toxic, Hufnagel said.


You are correct UCI Medical Center Pharmacist, the expiration date is there for a reason: The Food and Drug Administration thought it would be a good idea in 1979. Since I am no longer allowed to surf the web at work you will just have to trust me: this date is (and has always been) an arbitrary number. Sure medications expire at some point, but they do not magically go bad the day after the expiration date. "Heart medications may lose their potency..." Maybe nitrogylcerin will lose its potency, and it won't be able to rescue you when you are having a heart attack (that's bad); so let's make that sentence read: "A heart medication may lose it's potency..." As for drugs disintegrating and becoming toxic. If I were searching the web, I bet I would be able to find 1 case report involving expired tetracycline and renal failure (from the 1950s). Here's an interesting newspaper article on the subject of expired drugs.

I guess I need some kind of disclaimer: I do not think it is illegal for me to recommend the use of expired medications in this great State of California, but just in case it is: I am in no way recommending that you use expired medications. By reading this blog, the reader assumes any (and all) risk for any harm suffered from any actions (or inactions) taken on the reader's part.

In dining news: Restaurant Week in the OC. Nicole and I were in Vancouver at about this time last year, and the downtown dining establishments were running a similar program...only they call it "Dine Out Vancouver." I guess it's the kind of thing restaurants do when there are no tourists. Anyway, I plan on eating in many expensive restaurants for $26.95. My picks for the week are: Abe, Bayside, The Bungalow, Oysters, and The Arches.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

This week's sign that the apocalypse is upon us.

Myspace and Friendster are blocked at work. Somehow, my cubicle neighbor Sharon (who is blogless) has been maintaining this page for two years. I think Frodo has more friends than I do.
Vegetarian Fajita Burrito at Chipotle (no sour cream) has 1,058 calories. That's pretty impressive.

Back to work.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

We've been trying to get rid of some old bottles of wine these last few days. Nicole was making something that needed a glass of white, I can no longer remember what that was...


I started it off by opening the 1999 Martini & Prati Chardonnay. This winery used to be famous for selling freshly made jug wine, which made for a rather fun visit. My quick google search tells me that Martin Ray bought the place. The bottle of chardonnay was an afterthought; it was probably not terribly good 7 years ago, and it did not age well. Down the sink it went.

Next I opened the bottle of 2001(?) University of the Pacific (white wine). Did one of Nicole's former classmates give that to us? Is it something that the college sends to all their alumni? The cork crumbled while I was pulling it out; 5 year old UOP white with a bad cork might very well be the worst wine I have ever tasted...this one went down the sink, as well.

Finally, 2001 Penfolds Chardonnay. This bottle was a Wine Spectator 90+ point wine when I bought it, and I remember it being decent. After 5 years, it ended up on the sweet side.
Nicole cooked with a glass, we each drank a glass, and dumped the rest.

3 bottles down, one hundred something to go.
If I did it.

There have been complaints that part of my last post was not terribly clear: I suppose I should just write that I came out ahead on the weekend...because I did not run into any coworkers and/or friends in Vegas that were bad luck at the craps table, causing me to finish the trip a few dollars above even.

I would like to correct that paragraph to read: "If I did run into any coworkers and/or friends in Vegas, they would have been bad luck at the craps table, causing me to finish the trip a few dollars above even."

With those updates aside, Happy New Year everybody. Effective January 1st (or was it December 30), these new rules are to be enforced here at the old RxSolutions. Here's to assuming that these policies were written for the low level phone operators, and that those of us with 8+ years of education will still be allowed to do cross word puzzles at our desks. Just in case, I thought I'd bring in my carnivorous garden, a Christmas present from Jenny, as carnivorous plants do not appear to be specifically prohibited by the new rules. However, I do not recall ever seeing a fly here in cubicle hell. Does anybody know if venus fly traps need insects to survive, or do they hunt just for fun? I would check myself, but I am trying to limit the web surfing at work...

The other one was the only person to buy me anything off of my amazon wish list (please notice that some of the items have been up there for over 3 years). If I did learn how to convert the soundtrack of a dvd to an audio cd, I would be playing this cool Pixies DVD in my car right now. Unfortunately, I would not have fully mastered the procedure yet, and the entire DVD would be one long (102 minute) track.

Back to work.