Unsustainable social apps, and the sustainability of Elon Musk

I write this having just returned from the Edison Awards in San Francisco.   How refreshing to be part of a gathering of companies whose products and services serve an actual need, and purpose,  quite a stark contrast from the majority of companies exhibiting the previous week at NY Tech Day, where there were a few industries represented, e.g., business services,  education, retail, but the show was overwhelmingly a plethora of “me-apps”, companies whose mobile apps have functions and features for you to show and share your self, your opinions, your tastes, pretty much “the world according to me”, a cottage industry leveraging narcissism for ad revenue.  If you woke up tomorrow and Facebook, Zynga, and other productivity wasting sites/games were gone, no population would suffer, with the exception of couch potatoes. Social media is the new health affliction, just as smoking was to previous generations, and why the IRS should subject this industry to a vice tax to support the [un]Affordable Healthcare Act.   While there seems no limit to investors’ appetite for me-apps, their sheer number should serve as a wake-up call that this market, and business model, is saturated, over-saturated, and headed for a steep correction.

That is precisely why attending events like Edison Awards are so necessary, to remind me that purpose driven companies like mine do exist, do get funded, I just need to venture out from all the trending hype to find them.   However,  the true highlight of my trip was my elevator ride with Elon Musk and Yang Yuanqing, who, having just been honored, rushed in to escape the swarming crowd from the ballroom.   Talk about your literal “elevator pitch” opportunity!  But no, I did not even introduce myself, instead thanked Mr. Musk for inspiring my college bound son, who was back in NY receiving an award of his own, which I was missing to receive mine, for an essay he wrote about environmental sustainability and corporate responsibility of Elon Musk. With that he smiled broadly and permitted me to take his picture, which I promptly texted to my son,  waking him at 1:00 a.m., but was just as promptly forgiven.

Delicious Prescription? Get Real!

Interesting read in the WSJ on how physicians are finally ‘getting’ that what you eat is truly the best medicine, enlisting the help of top name chefs, A Delicious Prescription, WSJ 3/15-3/16,. However, I read this article unsure if the author was taking a tongue and cheek approach; citing menu options from several upscale restaurants most of us will never dine in, nor have the pocket to purchase such ingredients.  The chefs and physicians on this project were  middle age and male, and , I’d wager none of their offerings appeal to a youngster’s palate, perhaps because they lack the experience in satisfying that demographic, or perhaps because they only sought what was appealing from their own perspective.  l  submit the following:

“grilled flatbread with tomatoes, anchovies, fresh ricotta, a drizzle of saba- a naturally sweet grape-juice reduction”, OR
” almond soup with glazed scallions, wild mushrooms with white truffle, sweet garlic, grilled toro and coconut foam. Perhaps “staples at Bouley restaurant”, but certainly not in 99% of American households, truly a fantasy befitting its own island- “De Plane! De Plane!” Sorry, channeling my inner Tattoo.

Are these really the “experts”? Better to consult the folks who are supposed to get it right from the beginning, since that is where health begins.  A lifetime of healthy eating comes from practice, and therefore, becomes not a chore, but a habit.  Even the project’s members concur, stating that they are interested in prevention, which implies early adoption of healthy foods and yet their approach is counter-productive,   Specifically, the focus on gourmet meals, serves only a mature or elitist population, and undermines focusing on real food choices for families, which would benefit the masses,  Clearly no “public” served by this foodie fraternity, despite that the lead participant is Harvard School of Public Health.   A far better use of  funds would be if Harvard School of Public Health consulted parents on how to make the best ‘fake’ fried chicken, by removing the skin, coating in smashed saltines, or breadcrumbs, and baking it in the oven, or, sliced up eggplant or zucchini baked on a cookie sheet, sprayed with a little olive oil, and salt and pepper, both of which can provide leftovers which stretch the budget far beyond any “naturally sweet grape juice reduction”, unless  the experts are proposing we all ferment our own wine as a revenue model.

Multitudes of us run-of-the-mill playgroup hosts stock not “coconut foam”, “grass fed beef”, or “eggs from grass fed chickens”, but carrots, celery and apples,  These are staples that are affordable to the average American family, particularly, as 25% receive SNAP funds, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.   Factor in an estimated 3.5% increase in food prices due to the recent drought,  and the healthy cupboard becomes even less affordable

To the participants involved in this effort, might I suggest the following preparation directions?  Leave the ivory tower [spotless stainless kitchen] that is your domain, along with your  lab [chef] coat, turn sharply off the wealthy path you’re traveling of pricey restaurant fare,  pivot to the menu of ingredients actually attainable within the average family grocery budget.  Add a dollop of humor, and a healthy dose of reality,  add liberally, as it appears you are in short supply. Yields: a healthy realistic meal plan that exists outside a Petri dish, or Fantasy Island.

Autism Speaks strangely silent

A couple of significant articles were published this week on Autism, WSJ.   The first was a detailed report on the causes of autism, which independent studies concluded was environmental to gestation.  I suggested this likelihood in several posts over the years, too many to list here, urging that Autism Speaks’ policy against vaccinations, as the culprit, was ill-conceived, based on a questionable study, which was later discredited, and harmful.   These recent studies are the most compelling evidence the group’s recommendation, and campaign, was baseless.   An article on further studies on diagnosis across gender was printed the following day, so Autism is getting a lot of  ink this week.  Yet despite this attention, the Autism Speaks website included the gender results, but no mention of the environmental studies.   I revisited the website several times, but as I write this, still nothing.

Autism Speaks is the largest. and largest  funded,  organization dedicated to Autism research and services for the Autistic and their families,  carrying significant clout.  So where is their mea culpa?   Not sure what I expected or hoped to find, but perhaps something along the lines of  “An overwhelming number of recent studies conclude there is no link between vaccinations, or the mercury contained in vaccinations, and incidence of Autism.   Schedule your child’s vaccinations with his/her pediatrician”.    As diseases once eradicated resurface, the decision not to vaccinate one’s child, is a decision to place other children at risk.   The abundance of studies yielding negative results should finally put to rest any debate on this issue; there is simply no reason to take that risk.

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Affordable Healthcare Act-pure fiction

I recently dropped off a prescription for my father in law for a branded drug but when I returned to pick it up, the pharmacy had filled it in its generic form instead.  I had the physician contact the pharmacy and the error was corrected, with the pharmacist explaining they “were just gearing up for Obamacare”.   I didn’t dwell on that response, I was just focused on solving the error, however, the pharmacy no longer accepted that insurance and so the “market rate” would apply, a whopping $266.00.

I again had to contact the physician and instructed him to call the prescription into another pharmacy that would honor my father in law’s insurance, total cost: $54.93   He is 86 years young and this is his very first prescription  that he will be required to take daily, and as a formerly healthy man whose only drug was an aspirin a day, he had not enrolled in medicare, as he saw no need to.   Due to his “late enrollment” status, his activation is delayed; fortunately he has health insurance through his former employer.

But as I thought more about the first pharmacist’s response, I became more alarmed.  If my father in law filled this prescription personally, he may not have noted it was not what his doctor prescribed, nor would he have been aware of the side effects of the generic version.  Are pharmacies disregarding all DAW instructions for some segments of the population [elderly] or those that are covered by Medicare? Medicaid?  Was it only the fact that he had private insurance that the DAW was eventually honored?

Careful review of the CBO/Congressional Budget Office report on Affordable Health Care Act, aka Obamacare, includes prescription costs estimated largely on generic drugs.  Further,  more companies are stating, publicly, it is cheaper to pay the fine than insure their employees, when the CBO assumed current levels of insurance coverage by employers.  All of which makes the CBO’s estimates pure fiction.


A Facebook tease reflects on the Eye of Sauron

“You are a tease” he said.   “You dip your toe in and then retreat”.   He was right on the money; those of you who read this blog know I took a sort of hiatus while wrestling  my love/hate relationship with social media.   “You need to be more like a Facebook whore for us to invest”.    Q: What precisely is a Facebook whore?  The crass, but fearless investor continued:  “Someone who is on Facebook all the time,  24/7, constantly updating, commenting no matter how mundane,  or stupid, as long as you are always available”.    I considered his response and then ventured “Don’t you mean Facebook Slut since no money is changing hands?”   But then I realized my own naivete- a Facebook whore is the Facebook slut who’s successful- she gets the dough.   Mom was wrong; evidently, everything I needed to learn to succeed, I definitely did NOT learn in kindergarten.

I didn’t heed that sage’s advice, not only because I find our society’s obsession with broadcasting our lives alarming, but because I am opposed to how it zaps productivity, and am left in an ethical quandary of  harnessing the very thing I see as marginalizing our lives, our relationships, and our health.     Spending sedentary time updating, tweeting on our asses, is it any wonder then, that so many of us have fat asses?

But what has always kept me wary of  Facebook, as an investment [recommended shorting it the minute it opened for trading], and as a means to build our brand, is how it makes money; by trolling your information and activity-  it is a corporate “Eye of Sauron”.    Further, reliance on a third party leaves you vulnerable,  particularly, if the Eye sets its sights, or buys, a business that competes with yours, as several companies that were shut out of Facebook, learned and reported this week.   Businesses like divorce attorneys and mate match sites, use your ‘single’ status to start their ad campaigns.   More dubious enterprises such as fortune tellers, identity thieves, and burglary rings,  are also scouring facebook and reaping rewards.  All of which reveals one simple fact;  your free facebook account  isn’t really free; it has been paid for in the currency of the your privacy.

USDA’s affair with soda

There’s been much controversy over Bloomberg’s large soda ban but for all the negative comments and outcry over being micro-managed, no one can dispute the costs associated with this vice.   The neighborhoods with the highest incidence of diabetes and obesity, have the highest soda sales, offering the most compelling evidence to enforce the ban.  But the real culprit in all this is the USDA itself, which rejected NYC’s proposal that soda be excluded under SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.   Perhaps the USDA thinks there is some nutritional value in soda,  or pork rinds,  maybe their retirement funds are heavily invested in Coca-cola or Pepsi, or  just possibly, the soda manufacturers lobbied the USDA right into their back pocket.   Perhaps they were soooo overwhelmed in their task of replacing the Food Pyramid with the Food Plate, to build healthy food awareness. Ironic, considering soda doesn’t belong anywhere on it.    When tax payer dollars are spent on changing a triangle to a circle, instead of meaningful decisions that make a positive impact, it’s no wonder we’re in a sequester.



My dog ate my adderall!

A couple weeks back it was reported that the prescription “Adderall was prescribed to treat ADHD and “chronic sleepiness”.   Huh? I’ve heard of chronic fatigue, but sleepiness, is a new one on me.  That could qualify all teenagers who sleep past noon and after reading yesterday’s expose’, it takes little more than that to get a medical professional to write a prescription.  These well-intentioned doctors do not consider  the secondary market, a cottage industry of student-dealers pushing a dependency on such stimulants to enhance high school performance-after all ‘you’re at at a disadvantage to other students who are all doing it”.

Worse however, is the perception among students that it really does the trick. School administrators cited an estimated 30% of the student body engages in such practices.   With such large numbers,  a formal study is justified.  One student gets the real stuff, another gets a placebo.    After tracking performance, we can determine for certain if this is due to the drug.   I mention this because I know of two parents who stated their child took Adderall for the SATs, they reportedly  informed their parents of this after the test, claiming they expected a jump in their scores, but much to their, and their parents’ dismay, neither student’s scores increased.    I couldn’t tell if their parents were disappointed, or if  they were relieved.   Knowing both kids, I was relieved, if such an increase were realized, it would reinforce the practice, and minimize the importance of study habits, if all that was required was a pill.     Curiously absent in the article, was any mention of how/if parents assist or prod their children into using such performance enhancing drugs, and it is simply incredulous that the percentage quoted can occur without their complicity.     There are legally attained versions of this as well; 5 Hour Energy Drink is sold over the counter to anyone 18 or older.

To attribute  success to a drug instead of attitude and  preparation leads to a false dependency on a prescription that may/may not have the intended affect.   “I’m sorry teacher, I couldn’t do my homework because my dog ate my Adderall! ” One other point noted but not expanded upon, was the side affect of weight loss- how many students, adults, etc. are using this drug for weight loss?   That may turn out to be an even larger incentive as these ‘HIGH” schoolers, pun intended, head off to college and try to stave off the ‘freshmen 10’.


Elton John was right

Last week the WSJ reported on a customer’s purchase of a $41 ice cream birthday cake, on food stamps aka, SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.    While there are safeguards in place to prevent the purchase of alcohol and cigarettes,    no such provision prevents  extravagant purchases on the tax payers’ wallet or even excessively fattening products, like Cajun fried pork rinds.   It was also reported this week that SNAP will begin decreasing the rolls of recipients, in an attempt to curb  fraud, a welcome step, but what of regulating purchases for legitimate SNAP recipients?  Those in poverty are also those with the highest rates of diabetes, and this is no mere coincidence.    By failing to exercise controls, the USDA allows the purchase of Ring Dings, $41 birthday cakes, and a cupboard full of questionable products that foster a lifetime of poor eating habits.    As Elton John sang over 35 years ago  ‘time’s are changin’ now the poor get fat’.

Educating the public on its poor choices with the intent they change those choices is a worthy goal,  but removing their ability to make those poor choices is paramount over any concerns of political correctness or outcry they are being micro-managed.      NY’s Mayor Bloomberg ignored the outcry of  New Yorkers who objected to his  efforts to legislate their dietary decisions by outlawing large soda purchases.     He doesn’t care, nor should he.   He recognizes that we are paying at both ends, to feed the needy and then to undo the damage of an unregulated diet of over 35% of the city’s population, an unaffordable cycle, all the more objectionable because it is government-induced.   Bloomberg recognizes the enemy of his constituents,  themselves, and is fighting with the right ammo,  too bad other leaders/agencies don’t have the courage to follow suit.



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Social Security fraud and your money

This weekend it was reported in the WSJ that thieves filed fraudulent returns  using stolen Social Security numbers before the real individuals could, and provided mail box drops or vacant homes to pick up the refund/cash cards.    That the IRS even uses such currency is frightening; checks require an ID; whereas debit/cash cards do not.   Far worse is that Social Security lost an estimated 11 billion- 5 billion established, an additional 6 billion in losses/theft estimated,  when its solvency is already short-lived.  This seems like a mortal wound for an agency that has reported it will be bankrupt in 12 years.

This massive fraud demonstrates the inability of government to exercise control and security and if they were private companies, there would be an outcry for an investigation, at the very least, someone would be fired- paging Donald Trump?  However, these trusty folks are the same folks that will manage your healthcare which will just enlarge the pot for fraud and abuse.     Like a borrower that proves himself imprudent and  childish and asks for a bigger budget, we, and hopefully the Supreme Court, must recognize this wake-up call, and definitively answer NO.   All politics aside, no single entity, government or otherwise, should have this much at stake that could so easily be breached.

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Healthcare- the next bailout?

It was reported last week that several organizations promote the preventative AIDS prescription.   We taxpayers are going to pay for a preventative daily pill to protect those ‘at-risk’ of Aids.  Why are they considered ‘at risk’?   Because they have multiple partners and won’t use a condom.   If you assumed these were teens, you’d be wrong.  The largest ‘at risk’ group is comprised of adult males, who have no excuse for such reckless habits.    Once again, those that conduct themselves irresponsibly  are bailed out by the  responsible whose  taxes are allocated toward protecting a group of individuals hellbent on engaging  in selfish, destructive and dangerous practices, when a simple drugstore condom would suffice.  But here’s the real kicker; in testing the drug’s efficacy, 10% of these folks actually contracted the disease from the prescription intended to prevent it, and then required the intense Aids cocktail therapy to beat it.    Under what medical category is this lunacy billed?   This is NOT medical care, it’s a bailout.


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