Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nice FAQ on biosimilars

What are biosimilar drugs?

They are similar to, but not an exact copy of, a biologic drug.

Biologic drugs can be made from a variety of natural sources -- human, animal, or microorganisms, the FDA says. They may be made up of sugars, proteins, or things like cells or tissues, according to the agency. Some are made using genetic technology.

Advances in genetics really are opening up opportunities. I can see a future where we have genetically modified microbes that excrete a variety of useful drugs as waste products.

Some examples of biosimilars:

FDA Basics

I was doing research for class today and came across this nice web page from the FDA that seems to be consumer-oriented, and defines a number of the things they regulate in a relative clear and user friendly way:

Sunday, September 27, 2015

summary of Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015

Nice summary of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015 from a web site called "" which seems to me to be a Progressive web site. But nevertheless, I think the facts are well presented.

summary of Medicare benefits

doing some research today for my next podcast and came across this nice summary of Medicare benefits from AARP.

worth a glance - it's only 1.5 pages

Friday, September 25, 2015

stumbling upon May Sarton; the universe speaks

I typically keep a collection of poems around for those moments when I have a minute and nothing to do.

A modern poem is often less than 100 words - often much less. I read very slowly, but even I can get through something that short in a minute or two.

So I picked up my copy of Good Poems, American Places edited by Garrison Keillor this afternoon and flipped to my book mark to read the next poem. It happened to be by May Sarton.

I haven't read much of May Sarton's poetry. But when I was a freshman in college, I did read May Sarton's books,Journal of a Solitude and At Seventy: A Journal. I was big on journaling back then. It was kind of like blogging, except no one ever read your posts. Kind of like today. Except they couldn't have, even if they had wanted to, unlike today. But I digress...

It was Journal of Solitude that especially affected me. When I went to college, I was determined to change my life. And by changing my life, I mean I was determined to find some purpose in my life, something that was outside of the hum and buzz of popular culture. I was still high from having read Walden, and I had brought with me only a minimalist amount of things: some books, a radio. I was heeding Thoreau's admonition to simplify, simplify, simplify. Then I stumbled upon Sarton's journal about how she lived for a year on an island without speaking to anyone. I don't recall how she handled the logistics - I'd have to re-read the book - but it was a powerful thought to me, coming on the heals of Thoreau.

The poem I stumbled upon this afternoon is titled, In Texas (you can read it here, courtesy of Keillor & Co.). The poem itself is fine. It's a good poem, as the book says. But the irony is that it was titled, In Texas, that it was May Sarton, whom I associate with dealing with loneliness on a theoretical level, and whom I first read when I was dealing with my own loneliness - the loneliness of being away from home for the first time.

I have a daughters who are away at school, and each of them has or is dealing with that same loneliness in their own ways. We had a message from one of them today saying she is very lonely, And then I stumbled upon May Sarton. And she was writing about Texas, where we have just come from, and where my daughters were not lonely.

A good Humean (i.e., favoring David Hume) would tell you that my mind is trying to find causal links that do not exist; that one of the flaws of human (not Humean) reasoning is that we find associations where there are none, but this is how I hear the universe speaking to me. Perhaps it is God. I think of it as the universe, which may be the same thing. But sometimes I stumble upon these things and they do not seem to be by chance - they come at just the right moment, as if they were a message. It is hard not to see them as such.

This one brings small comfort, if it is meant to be one. Other than the fact that Sarton's year came to an end and she returned to civilized society; my loneliness came to an end as I found my way; and I have no doubt that my daughter's will as well. Of course we always have loneliness lingering somewhere. I think that is part of the human condition.

In Journal of Solitude, Sarton explored the difference between loneliness and solitude.

My wife told my daughter that I do perfectly well with solitude (which I often do, and often seek out), but even I was lonely when I was in her shoes. I was. I still find myself lonely at times, solitude or no. Even with the universe's occasional cryptic communications, I find myself lonely at times. But I also love my solitude at times. This is a part of growing up, I suppose. Finding your peace in solitude, finding that solitude is not necessarily the same thing as loneliness.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

creativity is the result of imitation

nice article from Aeon:

The chimps and the toddlers performed about the same on most tests (the orangutans didn’t do so well). But the children left the chimps in the dust on tests of social learning – for instance, watching someone open a puzzle box, then copying his actions. The upshot: without the benefit of learning and culture, humans aren’t that much more intelligent than chimps. But we do have extraordinary skills in social cognition, including a stellar ability to observe and imitate.

rest here:

This is why the cultural misappropriation people are so wrong. It's a fundamental human process to imitate.

favorite Shakespeare

my two favorite Shakespeare speeches, which I once had committed to memory, but which I no longer can remember:

from MacBeth
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

from Merchant of Venice (which is my favorite Shakespeare - I totally identify with Shylock and think he gets screwed)
To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else,it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, andhindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted mybargains, cooled my friends, heated mineenemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hathnot a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed withthe same food, hurt with the same weapons, subjectto the same diseases, healed by the same means,warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, asa Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poisonus, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we notrevenge? If we are like you in the rest, we willresemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christianwrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be byChristian example? Why, revenge. The villany youteach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but Iwill better the instruction. 
I think I'm going to print these out and put them next to my bed so I can get them back again.