Monday, March 31, 2008

Drug Pushers

I used to be in favor of allowing drug companies the right to directly advertise their products to consumers. However, the more time that goes by, the more I realize the misguided ideology of this line of thinking. History now bares witness to the facts that reveal several truths about this matter.

Pharmaceutical companies do not do nearly the research that they need to in order to determine the effectiveness of their drugs before they start selling them to customers. Also, when such research is not favorable, they delay the release of the information to the public in order to drive more sales. The most recent example of this is Vytorin (and its component Zetia). These drugs were proven to reduce bad cholesterol. However, a dangerous assumption was made that this inherently also reduced the risk of heart attacks. The fact is that the drug does not reduce the risk of heart attacks. The drug companies of Schering-Plough Corp. and Merck & Co. marketed this nearly useless drug for two years after they knew it did not work for the purpose it was intended, according to AP in their article.

Pharmaceutical companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing campaigns. This is taking money way from research and development. In my opinion, it is also likely the major reason that drug costs are raising drastically since the band on drug advertisements was lifted.

Advertising drugs directly to the public encourages self-diagnosis. People are trying to be their own doctors. Advertising, along with the establishment of the Internet has given hypochondriacism new life and even legitimacy. Self-diagnosis is very dangerous.

Given these reasons, I am now in favor of re-establishing the restrictions on advertising for proscription drugs. This will help reduce the chances that corporate greed will take advantage of Americans. It will help reduce the cost of drugs. It will help provide for more R&D funding into new treatments. And, it will help reduce dangerous hypochondriacism and self-diagnosis.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Life Confuses Me.

My simple statement about me: "Life confuses me and I'm comfortable with that confusion."

I don't need to have beliefs about things I don't know or can't confirm. I tend to develop notions, but I generally understand that these are just ideas that should not be taken as more than that. So, yeah, there is a lot about this world I don't understand; and I don't need to understand them to live my life.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Earth is Flat and the Heaven supported above us?

There is a misconception that the bible states the world is a sphere.  There is no evidence for this misconception.  However, some interpret Isiah 40:22 to mean the bible says the Earth is a sphere, but that scripture does not say this.  In fact, that scripture makes other false statements about the nature of our world and the Universe.

From the King James Version:
"It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:"
First, a circle is not a sphere.  Second, it makes reference to the heavens as being a curtain stretched over the Earth as a tent.  This is actually in line with the beliefs at the time.  The surface of the Earth was viewed as flat, and the heavens were assumed to be stretched out over it, like a bowl turned over being placed on top a support, or like a tent covering. Many scriptures refer to the heavens in this manner. Check out Genesis 1:8, 2:4, 11:4, 28:12, just for starters.

In fact, some translations of the first creation account in Genesis 1:8 describes god as calling into existence the firmament of the heaven.  A firmament is a support or pillar.  To extend the simile of Isiah 40:22, it is the tent pole upon which heaven is held up above the Earth.  This is intended as literal, not poetic.  This was the literal belief about the nature of heaven used throughout the Bible's Old Testament.  It is a holdover from Egyptian mythology which stated that a large mountain was arisen from the sea to support the heaven.[1]

To further the bowl reference, this word firmament is an interesting derivative.  In the Hebrew, the word used for firmament is raqiya which means an extended solid surface or flat expanse.  Raqiya is derived from the Hebrew word raqa, which means beaten out or to spread material by beating, hammering, or stamping.  This is a reference to the process of making a metal bowl by hammering metal flat.  Thus in Job 37:18 we read about Elihu asking Job "Can you beat out [raqa] the vault of the skies, as he does, hard as a mirror of cast metal." (From the Kings James Version: "Hast thou with him spread out the sky which is strong, and as a molten looking-glass?")  Additionally, Job 22:14 makes reference to the "vault of heaven", sometimes translated as "vault of the sky" or "arch of heaven" in the context of discussing where god resides.[2][3][4]

To get back to the idea of the Earth being flat, many scriptures make references to the Earth being built upon a foundation. Note Job 38:4, Zechariah 12:1, Hebrews 1:10, Revelations 13:8 and Revelations 17:8.  The Earth is also described as being fixed in place in scriptures such as 1 Chronicles 16:30.

All of these promote the idea that the ancients had false concepts about the nature of Earth being flat and heaven being placed over the Earth and supported somehow so that is does not fall.  It shows that the the writers of the bible showed an acceptance and believed in these false concepts.


Though not used as a resource for this article, I also recommend reading The Three-Story Universe.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Evolution of Mammal Traits

Sometimes I'm fascinated at how mammals become mammals. Most mammals are so similar to one another in our number of traits that it amazes me to think that the diversity of mammals today came from a very small number of species in the past. One trait the most people don't even know about is our acute hearing. I imagine most people never think about how we mammals hear differently than other species. We have three bones in our inner ear, two of which are unique to us. (Most animals use parts of their jaw bones to hear.) Another unique adaption is the fact that we feed our young with milk from the mother. This is such as complex function, I can imagine why some people find it easier to accept we are just "made" this way. However, there is evidence that shows the path of evolution, and it isn't in the form of fossils.

The platypus is likely the most primitive mammal alive today. It lays eggs. It does feed it's young with a milk-like secretion, but not with nipples. Instead, it has a hairy patch its underside. The secretions not only serve to feed their young, but apparently, it also adds an additional layer of protection to the egg shell before the hatchlings emerge.

Then, the path to marsupials is given to us in the form of the second most primitive mammal, the echidna. This is a group of a few species that also lay eggs. However, when it lays its eggs, it places them into a pouch. This likely represents a primitive marsupial, before egg laying was replaced by embryo birth.

Marsupials in turn do have one advantage to placental mammals (that's us). There are less complications from having to protect the embryo from the mothers immune system since the young leave the womb at such an early stage.

Of course, the advantage of having a placenta during pregnancy has its own advantages, which can be seen by the fact that placental mammals are now the dominate form of mammals.

Even given our high level of development, one can see that mammals have not dominated the Earth for very long. For example, there are far fewer varieties of mammals than reptiles. Given the advancements of mammals, it will be interesting to see what future classes of species evolve on our world.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Don't Buy Blu-Ray

Don’t buy Blu-Ray and (of course) HD-DVD players or discs. It took so long for the battle over these two formats to be settled, they are both practically outdated already. The next generation format will be able to store 1 terabyte of data, compared to the lowly 50 gigabytes of data available on Blu-Ray. This new format is called TeraDisc and will be available as early as 2010. That’s less than two years from now.

What good is buying a whole new selection of videos and movies only to have to replace it in as little as 24 months, especially at the prices the disc pushers charge for their wares? Besides that, the quality for any older movies will not substantially improve enough to benefit from any newer formats anyway (at least without the huge expense of remastering, which ultimately is a degradation of quality of the original masters in the long run as formats continue to improve, requiring even more remastering.)

I would even be leery the TeraDisc format. Eventually, storing anything on discs or tapes will be as archaic as the horse and buggy. Why buy a disc at all when data can just be downloaded from a central location, such as iTunes (which already has movies). How data is stored will be one’s choice once they downloaded the content. There will be a variety of methods, including holographic cubes. The technology for this sort of storage and access is obtainable within our lifetimes, maybe even within the next decade or two.

I’m not saying that people should avoid all intermediate data formats. I am saying people should be very choosy as to which formats they commit. As technology increases, any formats will likely obsolesce sooner. The formats that will stand longer are ones that will be major leaps over then current technology.

For me, I’m not going to jump on the Blu-Ray bandwagon. It won’t be that long until something far superior comes along. In my mind, Blu-Ray is not a replacement for DVD. It’s not enough of a leap to be considered as a replacement. It is just another alternative to it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

My Restaurant Reviews

I've been reviewing items online almost as long as I've been on the internet. I've started leaving reviews of restaurants in Silicon Valley now. Check them out here:

Currently, I have reviews for Straits, Pizza Antica and Thea. So far, my reviews are centered around Santana Row, but it will expand.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Home schooling does not mean Parent schooling

In recent news here in California, there is a case in the courts now that is reinforcing California state law which basically says "persons between the ages of six and eighteen" are to be in "public full-time day school," or a "private full-time day school" or "instructed by a tutor who holds a valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught".

This has been state law for a very very long time. Yet now, we have scofflaws that claim they have a right to teach their own children whatever they want. Homeschooling is legal in California, as long as it is conducted per state mandated curriculum and by a licensed instructor.

The excuse used by the scofflaws? "Parents should not have to attend a four-year college education program just to teach their own children." It's the old argument, "Oh may god, this is too hard to do right, so I'm just going to do it wrong and be happy!" Lazy, lazy, lazy. Oh and cheap too! You don't care enough about your child's education to pay for it yourself (since you don't want the state to do it)! Mr and Mrs Long, in my opinion, you are lazy, selfish, and cheap jerks who obviously don't do enough reading into anything to know what is the truth. You have no business trying to pass on your ignorance to anyone's children!

That said, it is important for parents to teach their children about their own experiences, beliefs, hertitage, etc. Parental schooling does not mean home schooling. It is not a replacement for a formal education. It is something that should be done in conjuction with a formal education. Home schooling is just a place to do it if the law is followed. Parental schooling is not the same thing. If you don't agree with something taught in the classroom, then discuss it with your children. It is as simple as that.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Weeklong birthday

This has been a weeklong birthday of sorts. Monday, Allie took me out to Red Lobster. I had something with two lobster tales. It was fairly good, but at it made me miss Legal Seafood in New England. Yesterday, Ronie and Fern had a small a BBQ for me at their place. They got a super rich chocolate cake. We took home the remainder of the cake, but I'm not sure how I'm going to eat it all. Tonight, Allie and I invited her parents to join us for dinner at Cascal in downtown Mountain View. They ended up paying for it it with the excuse that it was still my birthday.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

First time in awhile

For the first time in awhile, I went out. I met up with Miriam and some of her friends a Old Pro in downtown Palo Alto. The evening wasn't too crazy. There was some new randoms from her work place. I had trouble making it there though because I wasn't able to leave work until like 7pm. It was fun getting out for the evening. Allie, oddly enough, had separate plans for her friends, also in downtown Palo Alto on the same evening, but those fell through and then she got sick. Otherwise, she would've come too.