Saturday, January 30, 2010

Technological change frustrations

Somewhere way back up the way, I talked about how rapidly technological change was occurring in the medical field. No doubt about it. We have made amazing strides in so many areas, and in many cases, we have prolonged life to the point that we are encountering some totally new threats--Alzheimer's comes to mind--that our parents and grandparents didn't live long enough to experience.

Well, I have had occasion over the last few weeks to experience some health issues of my own and, despite some good doctors and some really amazing technology, I have encountered some frustrations with the pace of where we are.

First, I have been declared officially to be a type II diabetic. No surprise there, considering my diet, weight and lifestyle. But I have been truly amazed how many others have the same malady. It is not valid research, I know, but in my own experience, based on how many folks say, "Oh, me too!" when I tell them, diabetes is epidemic. And especially if you consider those who don't even know they have it.

As mentioned above, part of the deal is that, since we are living to be older, and since our pancreases tend to go to sleep as we age, it will only be more prevalent. The modern diet almost assures it. Yet I am shocked at how little research is available for a cure. Oh, you can be sure that there is an amazing array of drugs available to treat the symptoms. Thank goodness for that, at least, since this disease can have devastating effects on the body. But where is the cure?

And diet is a not only a major force in prevention, it is by far the most effective treatment against symptoms. Yet dietary information is archaic. Count carbs. Take your pills and count carbs and prick your finger often to see what your blood sugar is. That's the gist of the info I got from "diabetes school" recently, and the mantra from the American Diabetes Association.

Not to get too technical, but the fact is that carbs are not necessarily carbs. Different foods are treated very differently by our bodies, and that especially applies to carbohydrates. A strawberry may have the same carbs as a slice of white bread, but they behave much differently as they affect your blood sugar. This is because of the variations of the glycemic index of various quickly your body converts food to sugar in your blood.

Yet accurate tables of the glycemic index (and its sister, glycemic loading) of various foods are very limited and have a pronounced Australian accent. See, the only real research on this subject has come from Australia, and relies on very limited studies that are now almost a decade old. And because of the nature of the study, they were done on a relatively few people. See, they had to feed healthy people various foods and then measure the result several hours later by drawing blood and checking their blood sugar.

Where is all this amazing research and technology on this very basic subject? And about something that affects millions around the world?

One other thing: my symptoms also necessitated a look at the old ticker, including a stress test and an echocardiogram. The echo deal is a wonderful bit of technology but is many years old now. You have to wonder when they'll be able to do it in 3D. The stress test has come a long way, thanks to nuclear imaging, but is still really primitive.

Well, the stress test was inconclusive and the cardiologist recommended we take a closer look. There are two ways. One is the long-standing arteriogram, in which he sticks a wire into the femoral artery in your crotch and runs it up into the heart and releases dye to see if there are blockages. It is invasive and has its risks, but if he finds something, he can often fix it with a stent or balloon while he is in there. It's also expensive.

There is another deal, though. It is called a cardiac CT scan, is not invasive at all, shows everything the other test does, and is about a fourth the cost. Trouble is, Blue Cross will pay for the arteriorgram but not the CT scan. Has nothing to do with technology, but guess which procedure we did.

Feel my pain?

(The arteriogram showed only one minor narrowing in one artery, which is being treated with medicine. Not bad for a long-time fat boy who loves Southern cooking. And armed with what little glycemic knowledge I can garner, and with a fistful of pills twice a day, I've got the blood sugar close to being in control. And I've lost 35 pounds. I'm convinced losing 50 more will solve all these problems!)

Don Keith N4KC

Monday, January 18, 2010

Succinct but so powerfully true

I know my "technological change" blog has veered lately to diatribes on the current state of broadcast radio. But I'm not going to apologize for that. The medium touches almost all of us. It is a powerful way to reach and affect folks. And it was how I made my living for 34 years...and still do peripherally. So humor me.

Now comes a truly succinct but powerfully true sentence from media consultant--one of the few who actually "gets it" when it comes to how technology affects traditional broadcast radio--Mark Ramsey. On a recent blog post he concluded with this statement about radio:

It's everything except our music that will make us the most popular place to hear music in the future.

You don't have to be a media consultant, a former disk jockey/programmer, or media blogger to appreciate the fact that when people can program their own music in any mix or order they want, a radio station that tries to please a large number of them will ultimately fail. When people can tailor that music mix and get it on their car radio, smart phone, computer or any number of other sources (heck, I get 40 channels of music on my DirecTV!), then those stations broadcasting from a tower on a hill will get lost in the fog of available songs.

Only people who are too lazy to do more than switch on the radio, or who just don't really care and will put up with just about anything, or who accidentally fall into the small number who really like the radio station's music mix will be long-term listeners.

(Insider note: stations may not care. They still live on SHARE. Shares of audiences are still high, since it is based on the number of people listening to radio at a given time. A station can have a 25 share...25% of people who are listening to their radios...but when you look at their RATING...percentage of the total may be less than 1%. At one time it would have been much higher. SHARE is the percentage of the listening pie. That pie is getting smaller and smaller.)

But it takes creative people to concoct the "glue" between the songs. The "glue" that holds listeners and causes them to prefer the station's stream of songs to their own self-created stream. Creative people cost money and a benefits package. And the really good ones want some control . Sometimes they are wrong. Sometimes it takes them awhile to get the recipe right. And if they are good, someone will try to hire them away. All that's trouble. They are a risk. Risk is avoided at all costs by today's broadcast owner/operators. It must be avoided!

Somehow, they don't realize that the biggest risk of all is being too safe.

Don Keith N4KC

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Your cell phone may be good for you!

It's true! Your cell phone may actually help prevent alzheimer's disease. Talk away, confident in the fact that RECENT RESEARCH (on mice) shows the radio frequency emissions from the typical mobile phone may actually help people with the malady and similar others.

Next they are going to find that the RF from my ham radio station is keeping me from catching the common cold. And all those years I sat fifty feet away from a 50KW AM radio station has increased my intelligence and prevented the heartbreak of psoriasis.

Bottom line--and all kidding aside--is we learn more and more everyday, and the real point is that knowledge builds on knowledge. Recent breakthroughs in using RF to kill cancer cells (mentioned way back up the archive...with development by a ham radio guy) is a good example. I still believe the good news is that we will conquer many known killers and debilitators in the next decade, greatly prolonging life for people in most parts of the world (it will take longer where people still rely on witch doctors and ju ju).

The depressing news is there will always be new threats coming along to challenge those who strive for the end to unnecessary death.

Remember that scene from Star Trek when surgeons were about to cut into the brain of an injured crewmember and the ship's doctor was appalled at such "barbarism?" He pulled a little device from his pocket, passed it over the man's head, and healed him in a few minutes.

I have a scar from my ribcage halfway around my right side from a cholecestomy (gall bladder surgery) in 1974. A nurse saw it this week when I was in for some tests and couldn't believe it. That surgery now--and for the last dozen or so years--leaves a few tiny pips. The nurse had never seen such "barbarism!"

Well, I digress. I've been forgetting a lot of things lately so I need to go call up somebody and talk to them on my cell phone...if I can remember where I put the dang thing!

Don Keith N4KC (friend requests welcomed)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Thanks for the bulletin, Nielsen!

If the TV audience ratings company Nielsen produced viewer data with the speed and forethought they did media analysis, "Laugh In" would still be number one. Here's a bit of a release just out from the Nostradamuses at Nielsen:

"Last year’s downturn caused not only changes in how broadcasters operate, but also marketers. In a new report, Nielsen outlines five advertising trends that will shape continued evolution of the ad business next year. Media convergence tops the list, with a focus on improving return on investment. “The ability to accurately measure activity and link online ads to offline purchasing behavior will be critical,” says the report. Smart phones will be a growing issue, but Nielsen believes accurate measurement will be needed to track the snowballing growth of the mobile media platform. In addition, look for advertisers to continue to build cross-media campaigns. There's also a growing mainstream acceptance of social networking."

So, they have discovered convergence! And recognized the existence of SmartPhones. Linking online ads to offline purchases? And they predict that people will be more accepting of social networking? Oh, and if Nielsen believes that we need better measurement of "the mobile media platform" then where is the world's number one provider of media research's plan to do just that? (What would you expect from a company that still measures most TV markets with diaries, and uses diaries with little stickers for station call letters for radio...and measures almost all their radio markets ONCE PER YEAR?)

Stop the presses!

Would somebody call up Nielsen and let them know Dinah Shore is no longer on the air each week, and if you see "The Beverly Hillbillies," you are probably not watching over-the-air TV?

Don Keith