Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why I am not getting the H1N1 Vaccine

Each year, a vaccine is produced to combat seasonal influenza. The most likely strains are assembled and downtrodden. When administered, your immune system fights this weak version theoretically building the antibodies necessary to fight the strain. Study after study shows the flu vaccine reduces your chance of dying of influenza by 50 percent. Seems irrefutable.

The problem with these studies is that they measure people who chose to get the vaccine against people who don't. People who chose to get vaccinated are by definition concerned with their heath and more likely to take care of themselves. In the United States where vaccines are paid for by heath insurers, these studies are splitting the two groups into income brackets which naturally demarcate health. In other words, the studies compare healthy people to unhealthier people. You would think that any study worth its salt would eliminate this obvious problem by doing double blind experiments with vaccines versus placebos. But because the vaccine is presumed to work, it's considered unethical to give some a vaccine and others a placebo!

Some have challenged the results of this circular logic. In 2004, Lisa Jackson, a researcher with Group Heath Research Center in Seatle, studied medical histories of 72,000 people aged 65 and older. She found that outside of flu season, the baseline risk of death was 60 percent higher for the those that did not get flu shots.

This confirms the so-called "healthy user effect" demonstrating that healthier people tended to get the flu shot. In fact, the degree that they were healthier accounts for all of the supposed efficacy of the flu vaccine studies!

When Jackson presented these results to the Journal of the American Medical Association, they were rejected on the grounds that the results were akin to "suggesting the earth was flat." Other evidence is just as confounding. For example, just 30 years ago, few to none of people over 65 got a seasonal flu vaccine. Today nearly 75 percent get vaccinated, yet we don't see a decrease in influenza deaths to any degree that would indicate that the vaccine works. These obvious facts contravene sacred beliefs and are summarily ignored. It's possible that flu strains become have more infectious and lethal over that period and that lethality has exactly matched increasing rates of vaccinations but there is no evidence to support that claim. What seems most likely stems from the mechanics of the vaccine itself: those with good immune systems respond well to both the vaccine and the flu. Or more simply, the vaccine does nothing.

If a drug statistically appears to do nothing, then I will skip a step and not take it!

Important Post Script: I do not count myself among those who believe that certain vaccines cause autism or any number of other scientifically untenable claims.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Business News

Congratulations to the French for their court's successful prosecution of the Church of Scientology for fraud and levying a fine of nearly a million dollars. I have no illusions that other branches of this criminal organization will be prosecuted. I think Microsoft could avoid some of it's legal hassles by registering itself as a religion rather than a public company.

Congratulations also to the conservative splitters of the Anglican church who were upset over part of their church treating people equally. Luckily for them there is always a place for intolerance, fear, and hate with the Catholic Church who welcomed them with openish arms this week.
Since this is essentially a business story, it reads better as if it were in the Report on Business:

Shares of Catholic Church (TSX-OMG) were trading sharply up today as investors welcomed a new deal to buyout Anglican (B) preferred shares in a 1-1 stock swap. In the third quarter of 2007, Anglican Ltd. a junior player in the competitive religious service providers market, announced it's intentions to keep its liberal income trust (TSX-ANG.un) separate. The emergence of recent income trust rules outraged the parent company with VP operations Bishop Martin Devon suggesting that "if Anglican Ltd could not keep its assets unified, debt obligations might make operations difficult." Despite this spin by senior executives, it was widely reported by Bay Street insiders that differing management philosophies had undermined it's business model.
Investors speculate that The Catholic Church, a fully integrated religious service provider, plans to keep the successful Anglican brand. Investor relations VP Cardinal Louis D'Anglois suggested that "owing to some accounting practice harmonization, downsizing of administration would be limited during the next two quarters."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sewedge Sludge Opportunity

The town of Canmore is currently seeking a new home for it's yearly 3,000 tonnes of sewage sludge. Until recently, it was shipped to Bowden correctional facility where it was converted to compost at a cost to the municipality of $420,000.
One project on the table is a possible deal to mix it with lime dust at Exshaw and use it for mine reclamation, the lime neutralizing any bio-hazard.

3,000 tonnes of sewage sludge seems too precious for land reclamation.

Ideas anyone?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oldest Living Organisms

Wonderful slide show of the oldest living organisms on earth. Includes a few things I've never seen or heard of.

Here's a lovely shot of my favorite BORG otherwise know as the trembling aspen. This grove is actually a single organism that can transport moisture and nutrients through its underground root system from rich sites to poor sites. If you attack it by hacking off branches, it defends the larger hive-self by sending up new connected shoots to ensure it's survival. A worthy foe for Chronos.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Last gasp of Summer.

Last weekend Suz and I climbed up local landmark Heart Mt. From the Trans Canada, the name seems fairly arbitrary since it's wonderful shape can't really be seen. This picture is taken on the north side of the valley close to Exshaw just east of Canmore.

From the valley, the northwest ridge looks pretty intimidating but when it's right in front of you, the footholds and handholds appear much more forgiving. In the two pictures below I'm appreciating my new Vasque boots while I pick my way up a tricky section.

About two-thirds to the top is a shear face that tests the nerves a little though more so on the downclimb. Suz had no problem getting up first and then offering good advice while I struggled up. On our way down, I downclimbed this section more easily and helped Suz out returning the favour.

I was quite pleased not just with the view but with our accomplishment as well. While Heart Mt is considered an easy to moderate scramble, it is a good test of my shoulder mobility. It was exciting to do a climb that relied more on hand holds. There are many mental blocks for me still to put my shoulder in a vulnerable position in spite of it's strength. Our success here went a long way towards putting those fears in perspective.

Suz grabs a bite at the summit (7005ft) and enjoys that last hurrah of the season. Grotto Mt and the Bow river are seen in the background. Round trip time was six hours.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Nobel Prize awarded, New Coffee Machine!

Congratulations to Canadian Willard Boyle for sharing the Nobel Prize in Physics for his co-invention of the charge coupled device. A fascinating story of the discovery is worth reading here. The CCD is of course the chip that converts light into a translatable electrical signal. The applications have ranged from medical imaging to astronomy to the ubiquitous digital camera.

Telus announced today that they will be supporting the iphone finally. Telus has been using the CDMA 'standard' which was incompatible with the iphone. CDMA represents half the North American market but just 1% of the rest of the world. We can thank the government protected monopoly for having an antiquated telephone system. More importantly though, Suz and I can definitely see an iphone in our future. Living where we do, Telus is the only provider with coverage in the mountains so we have been very much beholden to CDMA until now.

Our friends Karen and Don recently upgraded their coffee machine and generously gave us their old one. For the last two years, I have be using a bodum . I've relished the results of having the water and the bean seethe for a lengthy socializing period, but the bodum daily clean up was always unsavoury. The new Hamilton Beach is a drip style method which is stored in a heated reservoir. To serve, one simply pushes the cup to the dispenser a la coffee shop. Magnifique!

My brother brought this wonderful location to my attention. Clearly signs of an ancient civilization. Or perhaps relics of an alien outpost.