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How do these people sleep at night?

An article on Alertnet by Ruth Gidley talks about the case currently before the High Court in Chennai, India, about whether to grant Novartis patent protection against a generic Aids drug, Glivec.

Glivec costs some $70 per year for a course of treatment, the patented alternative costs thousands. Glivec is saving millions of lives. Furthermore, by throttling back the Aids virus, it also decreases transmission, so it’s saving millions more people.

Novartis says intellectual “property” needs protection if innovation is not to be stifled.

Let’s have a reality check. A huge proportion of basic research, the kind that makes new discoveries about cures, is funded by the government. Taxpayers have already paid for that. Big Pharma just has the expense of filing for the patent.

Big Pharma does mainly applied research, which involves things like figuring out the best shape of pill, or going through the long and expensive clinical trials after a drug is discovered.

Their other big cost is marketing. They’re also publicly traded companies who have to satisfy their investors, who want as high a return as possible. If Novartis executives said they needed a monopoly so they could charge whatever the market will bear, which would look good on the balance sheet, which would secure their (the executives’) bonuses … well, then, I’d at least give them a point or two for honesty.

To go through this folderol when the product is a new battery technology for laptop computers is one thing. Not good even then, but not flabbergastingly evil.

In the fight against generics, though, these drug company executives are saying that a fair price for their business model is deaths all over the world. It’s the slow, fatal rotting of whole villages. It’s orphans selling themselves in the street.

How do these people sleep at night?

Technorati tags: AIDS, drugs, HIV, Novartis, generic drugs, patents, intelllectual property

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How not to get fat

Even as a child, I knew what was wrong with math teachers. They were mathematicians. Math was easy for them, which meant they hadn’t a hope of explaining it to me.

In a similar vein, I have to throw in my two cents’ worth about staying thin. I’ve always been thin, both my parents were thin, and I should really just keep my mouth shut. But I can’t stop myself. There’s so much nonsense out there, I have to point at it, even if it’s not political nonsense.

1) A huge proportion, say 80% in round numbers, of anyone’s weight is determined by genetics. Trying to fight that is like trying to have the will power to grow black hair if you’re blond. There is no point. Forget it. Besides, obsessing about oneself doesn’t make anyone attractive, even if it does make them thin. Attractiveness comes down to health, fitness, cheerfulness, and caring. That’s true regardless of gender. So, could we all just stop the useless, ga-ga admiration of thinness? (Madison Ave., I’m looking at YOU.)

2) Fitness, on the other hand, is not useless. Get out there and move. Enjoy walking. Do it. (That’s all. There’s really no more to say about it. Memo to self: remember to keep New Year’s resolution about exercising more.)

3) Food, which is not that big a deal unless you don’t have enough of it, should be way down the list of concerns. The most important thing about food is to enjoy it. If there’s any difference — besides genetics — between me and people who have more trouble with weight, it’s that I seem to enjoy food much more than they do. I savor it, and I’m the slowest eater I know. I don’t eat just to have something in my mouth, because there’s little enjoyment in that. And I almost always wait to eat until I’m hungry, because food eaten when you’re not hungry tastes about half as good.

About hunger, one thing I’ve noticed is that lots of people don’t seem to distinguish between wanting a treat and actual physical hunger. It goes so far that sometimes I’m not sure they mean the same thing by hunger as I do. Hunger (when not due to malnutrition or starvation) is a physical sensation at the bottom of the chest, accompanied by a pleasant feeling of heightened alertness and an interest in all food, not just treats. Someone who’s hungry for pizza but not for plain bread is not actually hungry according to me.

I’m just like the next person, as far as that goes. If I eat when I’m not really hungry, I gain weight. The genetic component may be the brain chemistry that signals real hunger sooner rather than later in some people. But the sensation of hunger is also something whose degrees one can train oneself to recognize. And then it’s possible to train one’s reaction to different degrees of hunger. (If it wasn’t, there would be no anorexics, although their overtraining is something to be avoided like the plague that it is.)

Retraining reactions to hunger involves paying very careful attention to the physical feelings of it that your body gives you, and then deciding at which level you’ll act on it. That process is a mental habit, and it can be changed like any other habit. It takes careful and continuous attention for about six months to a year to change the habitual setpoint, but after that it’s just as automatic as the old habit was. It does not involve a lifetime of effort and self-control. (I’m not just gassing, here. This is something I’ve had to do as I get older and my metabolism slows down.)

As to what to eat, that’s easy. In Michael Pollan’s memorable words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. (And if you want to cheat, remember: chocolate is a plant.) No, seriously. Eat what you enjoy, with people you enjoy, and all the rest will fall into place.

Technorati tags: fitness, health, diet, weightloss, New Years Resolutions

(Postscript. For information from someone with actual experience, see, for instance, Kyle Pott’s post on losing 50 pounds, via Lifehacker.)

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Moving from Blogger to WordPress: why, how, and where

I had issues with New Blogger. It was better, Google told us, but there was no way to try it out. Anyone who switched to the new one, couldn’t go back to the old. That made me itchy.

Then there was the broader issue that I had all my deathless prose on someone else’s system. If Google, like Yahoo a few years ago, decided that they owned everything ever published using their tools, I’d be done for. Not that Google had actually done anything that sleazy, but there was nothing to stop them since we no longer have a legal system that understands fair use or, for that matter, unfair use.

(Just recently, for instance, Google has decided it retains non-exclusive rights to photos published on picasaweb. If they think that’s going to help them get one up on flickr, they need to find out what their lawyers are smoking.

Picasa Terms of Service: “…by submitting, posting or displaying Content which is intended to be available to the general public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such Content for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting Google services. Google will discontinue this licensed use within a commercially reasonable period after such Content is removed from Picasa Web Albums. “)

So, what with one thing and another, I decided I’d move while I could do it in my own time rather than in a mad rush when I was forced to by some odious rule change.

There seemed to me to be two main choices out there: Movable Type and WordPress. Movable Type is still available as a free download to install on your own site (no support provided), but Typepad (the easy, hosted solution) costs $5 per month. Installing Movable Type looks non-trivial, and I must admit my eyes glazed over. WordPress has a free hosted option on However, since part of what I wanted to achieve was independence, I went the way of installing the free wordpress blogging software from on my own domain. (It’s essential to remember that is the hosted option, whereas is the site for downloads, information, and help for hosting-your-own. (Brief explanation of setting up your own site after “Read the rest….”)


Okay. So, WordPress is downloaded. You’ll want the “zip” version if you run Windows. You’ll also need an ftp program to upload everything to your site. (There’s another box after “Read the rest…” for a brief intro to ftp.) Filezilla is a good and easy-to-use program for Windows. Alternatively, Firefox now has an ftp extension (fireftp which is independent of operating systems. There may well be something already available on your computer that came with the operating system.

WordPress is said to be famous for its dead simple “5 minute install,” but I’m enough of a fink that I wanted my hand held for all five minutes. Luckily, Rachel Cunliffe has a video tutorial that does exactly that. It’s downloadable (73 MB) if you want. Follow along, pausing it as necessary to carry out the tasks. She makes it a downright pleasant experience.

At the conclusion, I tried my first post: “testing, 1, 2, 3”. What the post didn’t say was how amazed, bowled over, and just plain shocked I was that the whole thing had — apparently! — worked the very first time. Although it did take longer than five minutes. Half an hour, more like. Read more »

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Note for Internet Explorer users

Since I rarely use Internet Explorer, it’s taken me this long to realize the formatting is hopeless in IE. There’s supposed to be a blog title and description. Really there is. The top two photos aren’t supposed to push everything else out of the header. There’s a sidebar. Honest. Only in IE it lives way at the bottom after everything else. Aargh.

I’ve just spent all day trying to fix this and gotten nowhere. NOTHING has worked. Microsoft and their miserable, non-compliant browsers should be taken out and … well, not shot, I suppose. Officially, I’m against the death penalty. Right now, though, I’m seriously thinking about putting an escape clause in that attitude.

Get Firefox!

Update: Still (obviously) working on a kludge. The header problems are, perhaps, something to do with IE not collapsing empty, container-type divs. I vaguely and suddenly remembered something like that. Will have to look into it. Right now I’m going to sleep — and hoping nothing blows up when I post this!

Update 2: This is a day or two later. I’m not sure which. It’s all a blur. Man, what a fight! The fix is horribly kludged with nasty little hanging pixels here and there, but to hell with them. The most annoying thing is that because of the fixes I had to use (it would help if I knew what I was doing!), I have no guarantee things will display correctly at resolutions other than 1024×768, 1280×1040, or 1400×1050. If the site looks broken on your system, please let me know in comments or via the contact form.

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The crime: living while female

The BBC has a series of short reports from Iraqi refugees about their lives in exile and, sometimes, the events that precipitated their flight. Heartbreaking, every single one. This one about a woman named Fatima is just one example of the insanity.

Fatima is a single woman working as a hairdresser in Damascus. She fled Baghdad three years ago after armed militants attacked the salon where she worked. … They had also threatened to attack the building where she lived with several other women. The militiamen disapprove of women living alone.

… Every six months she has to leave Syria to renew her tourist visa. She hires a taxi to take her to the border. “One taxi driver wanted to charge me 25,000 Syrian Lira (about US $480) for the journey. I said that was too much. He said that I must be making lots of money, that as an Iraqi woman in Syria, I must be working in a nightclub.”

… “I want to be independent. I don’t want to be judged badly; I don’t want to be humiliated by anything. I just want to feel settled and to know I can survive.”

It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.

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My Moving Blog

[posted approx. Dec 24, 2006] testing, 2, 3, 4

Update, Dec 26: Wow. The WordPress function to import from my old Acid Test site on Blogger has worked for posts, and, I think??, comments. Now I’ll try to transfer the template…. You can watch my progress by how much of a mess this site looks as time goes by….

Update, Dec 28: After much aggro caused by major foolishness on my part, my photos are appearing. They’re appearing in the wrong places, but, hey, one thing at a time. ;-}

Update, Jan 1, 2007. New year, new template, new everything. Frustrating in spots, but mainly fun. It would have been a lot less fun … as a matter of fact I would have probably got nowhere … without some magnificent help:

  • Rachel Cunliffe’s incomparable video tutorial about installing WordPress on your own site.
  • WordPress’s problem-free, no-fuss-no-muss import utility that allowed me to transfer all posts and comments from to my site.
  • Alessandro Fulciniti’s javascript, Nifty Corners, for creating rounded corners that complemented WordPress’s default header graphic, which I’ve used with some changes. I’ve always liked the rounded corners look, but in the good old days (say, two years ago) it took a separate graphic for each corner. I’m too lazy for that. (Update, Jan 6: I must be doing something wrong. The corners on blockquotes after the first one aren’t being rounded. There must be some way to tell niftycorners not to give up after the first instance. Hmph.

My remaining difficult problem is how to redirect archived Blogger posts to the equivalent ones here. There are javascripts that seem to work for other people, but they won’t cooperate with me. The other problem is the name Blogger uses to refer to posts is subtly different from WordPress, so dead links crop up like bodies in a bestselling murder mystery. It would be tedious, but simple, to just hardcode each redirect on each page, but I don’t have access to individual page headers on blogspot. And so it goes. I’m going to have to learn enough php to do this. Don’t hold your breath. (And if you have a solution, for God’s sake, tell me!)

And then there’s the remaining simple but tedious task of checking the links, the formatting on individual posts, and all that good stuff. No wonder people get paid big bucks to do this….

Another update some minutes later: as soon as I posted this, something about the entry blew my formatting up. Great. The take home message is probably not to use the wysiwyg text editor. Meanwhile, please bear with me. 🙁

Update Jan 5: The explosion in my template formatting was so spectacular, and was followed by major access slowdowns, so I’m thinking it was actually a server crash somewhere between me and my hosting service that was unkind enough to happen right when I was saving changes. Anyway, mostly better now. What a fight. To-do: sort out the blogroll, and those pesky redirects.

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