Archive for the ‘General’ Category

U.S. Pharmacy Prices

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

I had a Prostatectomy in August of 2009.   One of the consequences of that operation is a tendency towards impotence since the nerves that control erections are seriously disturbed by the process of removing the Prostate Gland.  

If you are marginally impotent, as I was, following the surgery, Erectile Disfunction drugs like Cialis are indicated.   And they are, in fact a great help.

But the prices of Cialis is astronomical.   

I’ve tried ordering the cheaper generic stuff from India but, in truth, I have no confidence in it nor to I think it works.

So, that left me with ordering it in New Zealand or in the U.S.   New Zealand doesn’t subsidize Cialis as part of their medical system so they are simply charging U.S. prices with a shipment markup added.

In the USA, for 45 – 20mg pills, the cost is $1100+ USD.   Ouch!   I paid that last year when I was here and this time, I thought I’d have to do the same.

But, I had a trip up to Canada scheduled to visit a good friend of mine and, in the course of things, I found myself with most of a day to kill here while my friend was at work one day.

I decided to see if I could do better price-wise on Cialis here.

The bottom line is, “yes”, I could do better.   I paid only 60% of the US price here and got the ‘real deal’ Cialis from the genuine U.S. pharmaceutical firm that makes it.

If you need this stuff and live anywhere near the Canadian border, this is worth knowing about.

Get a U.S. prescription (original copy) and bring it to a Canadian walk-in clinic.   Pay the $60 CDN (your price may vary) to see a doctor and ask him to rewrite the prescription as a Canadian prescription.   Then carry that to a Canadian pharmacy and you’ve saved yourself 40% off the U.S. prices.

Why are U.S. prices so high?  Such an obvious question and none of our elected representatives (elected to supposedly represent our interests) can tell you.  Maybe it is all those Big Pharma donations that helped get them elected?


Quote of the Day

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

“A time will come when a politician who has wilfully made war and promoted international dissension will be as sure of the dock and much surer of the noose than a private homicide. It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men’s lives should not stake their own”   – H.G. Wells

Scrap heap may be last stop for secret slice of Navy history

Monday, April 30th, 2012

– An interesting bit of U.S. Naval history.  It’s hard to imagine all the secret projects that are carried out that we’ll never hear anything about.   Here’s one which the curtains, finally, have been taken down on so we can see what was done.  

– I’m not much for military stuff but I admit I found this fascinating and spent a long time poring through the interior shots of this one-of-a-kind ship.

– Dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = =

A secret chapter in American naval research could soon reach an ignoble close when a rusty barge and its once-classified contents leaveSuisun Bay for the scrap heap.

Slipping through the sea like a black mirage on catamaran legs, the 164-foot Sea Shadow looks like something Darth Vader might fly. It is the world’s only ship built to be invisible, assembled secretly in Redwood City in 1985 by the U.S. Navy and contractor Lockheed Martin at an estimated cost of $50 million.

Sea Shadow’s purpose was to test radar-cloaking technology and other naval engineering innovations. Many of its breakthroughs can be seen in present-day Navy warships.

Even at nearly 30 years old, Sea Shadowremains the most radical ship afloat.

– More…

– Direct to the photos…


Why the world is running out of helium

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

– I’ve been following this for years since one of my long-term hobbies has been a deep interest in The Elements of the Periodic Table.    

– The situation with Helium just screams ‘investment opportunity’ to me.   I just wish I has some cash to do something about it.

– Dennis

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A US law means supplies of the gas – a vital component of MRI scanners – are vanishing fast

It is the second-lightest element in the Universe, has the lowest boiling-point of any gas and is commonly used through the world to inflate party balloons. But helium is also a non-renewable resource and the world’s reserves of the precious gas are about to run out, a shortage that is likely to have far-reaching repercussions.

Scientists have warned that the world’s most commonly used inert gas is being depleted at an astonishing rate because of a law passed in the United States in 1996 which has effectively made helium too cheap to recycle.

The law stipulates that the US National Helium Reserve, which is kept in a disused underground gas field near Amarillo, Texas – by far the biggest store of helium in the world – must all be sold off by 2015, irrespective of the market price.

The experts warn that the world could run out of helium within 25 to 30 years, potentially spelling disaster for hospitals, whose MRI scanners are cooled by the gas in liquid form, and anti-terrorist authorities who rely on helium for their radiation monitors, as well as the millions of children who love to watch their helium-filled balloons float into the sky.

– More…

– And, see this:  



Why some of us are leaving the U.S.A.

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

– These comments were part of a larger discussion in which some of us were discussing why we’d immigrated from the US to New Zealand.   Some felt ‘pulled’ by New Zealand’s attractions while other felt more that events in the U.S. were ‘pushing’ them to find another place to live.  

– Chanah’s comments here clearly show that she and her family felt they were in the ‘pushed’ camp.

– Dennis

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“We came back in 2004. We did NOT come because we fell in love with New Zealand-we came because we wanted to get the Hell out of the United States while we still could (before we hit the age of 40). We came because they were charging us over $500 per month for Blue Cross health insurance that only covered 80% of the doctor THEY chose after we paid $500 deductable. Pretty crappy health care for a Registered Nurse. We came because a root canal ran me nearly $2000 and there was no dental coverage available. We came because we had to pay nearly $300 for a bottle of eye drops for my husbands glaucoma (that now costs us $3 BTW)-we came because we needed a credit card just to afford basic medications and co-pays. We came because I was tired of having to pay “malpractice cover” in order to keep my job. We came because after 911 my Civil Engineer of a husband had nearly $300 per month deducated from his pay for insurance in the event that a terrorist blew up a bridge that he happened to have signed off on. We came because the families of those killed on 911 are now suing those who happen to still be alive that built the World Trade Centers and while personal people have donated money the US governement has done little to nothing to support the families of those lost. We came because my nephew was forced to join the US Army in order to afford College/University and now that his term is up the Army is making him stay on additonal tours of duty against his will. We came because young people in high schools feel forced to go to college whether they want to or not in order to “get a job”. There is little to no respect for the hardworking plumbers, carpenters, labours who find it very difficult to make a decent living to raise a family on. We came because we felt the only way to be safe from the “Mad Cow Disease” that was being covered up was for us to becme vegetarian. Most important, we came because New Zealand offered us Permanent Residency and Australia only offered work visas. The first few years I was miserable. We had to live on savings and minimum wage jobs (we did not have jobs when we came). Am I happy? Actually I think I have come around to the point that I am a lot happier here then I would be in Australia. We’ve had a child (FREE-BTW) and  I KNOW I’m happier raising Rachel here then in America. About the government-the earthquake and its aftermath has given me a whole new respect for the New Zealand government. They are not “unreachable” or “untouchable”  like in the USA. If the Kiwis don’t like something that is going on they WILL hold their officials accountable. And, if that does not work they WILL vote them out of office-and the officials here know it. There are time AND financial limits on elections…all of this primary and sub-primary crap simply does not go on here. When I went to vote I was given an orange  marker to check the box of who I wanted. I forgot my ID so I simply gave my address and phone number and was permitted to vote. I then placed my ballot into a cardboard box….no hanging chads or “rigged” machines here in New Zealand.  What would make my life perfect? For my family to financially reach a point that we can travel to the States yearly-see family & experience the toursit sites. Each trip to the USA is “fun” but it leaves me happier then ever to return to New Zealand…I view the USA a bit like an amusement park-love to go eat, shop and see friends but when the day is over I’m happy to return “home” to some normality and stability.”

– Chanah Luppens – Christchurch, New Zealand


Wave Glider aquatic robots set world record

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Prediction time.  Drug runners and others are going to begin to use these for smuggling.   A small bit of extra technology can make these units able to receive instructions via satellite Internet.  They can be programmed to put their antennas up at night and down in the daytime and with the right coloration and low profile, they will be able to travel unseen from virtually any coast in the world to any other coast.

– Given the huge profit margins involved in smuggling, if they loose a few along the way, it’ll just be the cost of doing business.

– In fact, a secondary industry might spring up among people who want to find them before they deliver their goods to the smugglers.

– Dennis

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A group of four autonomous underwater vehicles have just set a world distance record, by traveling from San Francisco to Hawaii

On November 17th of last year, a group of four wave-powered autonomous aquatic robots set out from San Francisco, embarking on a planned 37,000-mile (60,000-km) trip across the Pacific ocean. Recently, the fleet of Wave Gliders completed the first leg of their journey, arriving at Hawaii’s Big Island after traveling over 3,200 nautical miles (5,926 km). By doing so, they have set a new distance record for unmanned wave-powered vehicles – that record previously sat at 2,500 nautical miles (4,630 km).

The Wave Gliders are made by California- and Hawaii-based Liquid Robotics, and each consist of a floating “boat” tethered to an underwater winged platform. The motion of the waves causes these wings to paddle the boat forward, while solar cells on the deck of the boat provide power to its sensors and transmitters. These sensors measure oceanographic data such as salinity, water temperature, wave characteristics, weather conditions, water fluorescence, and dissolved oxygen. GPS and a heading sensor also help the craft to orient themselves.

– More…



Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

“If you do not change your direction, you are likely  to end up where your are heading.” “Lao Tzu~~

The High Cost of Low Bandwidth

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

As more and more information is finding its way onto the Web, great swaths of our physical infrastructure are becoming obsolete. 

When we attempt to understand the implications of the Internet Age, the first thing we need to do is recognize that office buildings, retail stores, air travel, lecture halls, and paper are just clunky, expensive, and low-bandwidth interconnections.

Allow me to explain. Many things that seem as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar are, in fact, information proxies in disguise. We can view these information proxies as two separate pieces: an information-sensitive piece, and a second piece with a valuable function that cannot be displaced by better virtual environments.The Internet peels away the information-carrying portions of these physical things and institutions. Frequently it leaves behind skeletons of little value. In the process, the Internet restructures and renders much of our physical infrastructure obsolete.

For example, there are lots of reasons to go to a retail store. The shopper may go to a clothing store because he enjoys the experience of looking at the merchandise. He might want to find out what is available and how much it will cost, or feel the material, or leave the store with a suit he can wear the next day. Many, but not all, of the reasons he went shopping were to gather important information, yet there’s a lot of infrastructure associated with delivering that data. There’s the store itself and the shelving and display cases piled high with merchandise; employees to answer questions and operate the cash register; logistics systems and delivery trucks that carry merchandise to the store. Then there are the costs of keeping the stores lit, cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and clean at all times. Of course, the customer could not avail himself of all these information services without getting in a car, driving to the store, parking it in a garage, and buying gas.

Most of that information can be obtained without the car, without the shelving, without the employees. One of the reasons online retailing has been so effective is that it reduces many of these infrastructure costs while delivering the information the customer needs about price, availability, and size. Retailers engaged in the sale of commodities like books, CDs, blue jeans, and running shoes will find it increasingly difficult in the face of Internet competition. Some will be spared — the stores where customers really do want to see and feel the goods, and leave with them right away. (Upscale boutiques, for example, where the shopping experience is paramount, will be affected less.)

It’s not just retailers who will be transformed by the unbundling of information dissemination from physical locations. The need and function of places that support/reinforce interconnectedness will similarly diminish and change. An office building is both an information warehouse and an information exchange. In the future, the most important function it will perform is to provide a comfortable and productive location for face-to-face interaction. With more of us carrying our file cabinets in our laptops, cramming our overloaded out baskets into our PC’s and doing jobs for ourselves that administrative assistants used to do, the office of the past will probably become a warren of comfortable meeting rooms surrounded by temporary desks for those who choose to come to work that day. Those laptops will become smaller and lighter as files and applications move into the cloud.

In the case of a university, it is relatively easy to see the large-lecture classes, a strictly information-carrying portion of the educational process, being displaced by virtual courses. The university of the future will probably focus much of its energy on mentoring, small seminars, and guiding student laboratory and research experiences. A university where the vast proportion of the educational process focuses strictly on transferring information could well melt into virtual space.

The future will look very different as we strip the information-carrying functions out of proxies and reduce them to their bare essentials. Entertainment centers will be redefined. Libraries will take on new charters. Educational institutions will be restructured. Cities will be transformed. This will happen because much of our physical infrastructure was just a low-bandwidth interconnection disguised as something real.

– To the original…


Time to end the war on drugs

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

– This is from Richard Branson’s Blog.   That’s Richard Branson of Virgin fame.  I say, “Bravo” for what he’s written here.

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Visited Portugal, as one of the Global Drug Commissioners, to congratulate them on the success of their drug policies over the last 10 years.

Ten years ago the Portuguese Government responded to widespread public concern over drugs by rejecting a “war on drugs” approach and instead decriminalized drug possession and use. It further rebuffed convention by placing the responsibility for decreasing drug demand as well as managing dependency under the Ministry of Health rather than the Ministry of Justice. With this, the official response towards drug-dependent persons shifted from viewing them as criminals to treating them as patients.

Now with a decade of experience Portugal provides a valuable case study of how decriminalization coupled with evidence-based strategies can reduce drug consumption, dependence, recidivism and HIV infection and create safer communities for all.

I will set out clearly what I learned from my visit to Portugal and would urge other countries to study this:

In 2001 Portugal became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines.

Jail time was replaced with offer of therapy. (The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is much more expensive than treatment).

Under Portugal’s new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker, and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.

Critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to “drug tourists” and exacerbate Portugal’s drug problem; the country has some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. The recently realised results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, suggest otherwise.

The paper, published by Cato in April 2011, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.

Compared to the European Union and the US, Portugal drug use numbers are impressive.

Following decriminalization, Portugal has the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the EU: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%, Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.

The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%. Drug use in older teens also declined.  Life time heroin use among 16-18 year olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8%.

New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003.

Death related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half.

The number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and the considerable money saved on enforcement allowed for increase funding of drug – free treatment as well.

Property theft has dropped dramatically (50% – 80% of all property theft worldwide is caused by drug users).

America has the highest rates of cocaine and marijuana use in the world, and while most of the EU (including Holland) has more liberal drug laws than the US, it also has less drug use.

Current policy debate is that it’s based on “speculation and fear mongering”, rather than empirical evidence on the effect of more lenient drug policies. In Portugal, the effect was to neutralize what had become the country’s number one public health problem.

Decriminalization does not result in increased drug use.

Portugal’s 10 year experiment shows clearly that enough is enough. It is time to end the war on drugs worldwide. We must stop criminalising drug users. Health and treatment should be offered to drug users – not prison. Bad drugs policies affect literally hundreds of thousands of individuals and communities across the world. We need to provide medical help to those that have problematic use – not criminal retribution.

By Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group

– To the original…




Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Apoligies to those readers who follow this Blog for its environmental and political commentary. I will resume the normal fare here after my current trip is over on January 5th.

Until then, it’s just too much to travel, write up our travels and to follow and comment on the normal stuff.

Rest assured, I do have a look at the international news at least daily and am following events as always.