Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Pendulum Theory

This is my last theory for 2009. Actually, it's not really mine, as during the research for this post I found another blog that explains this social pendulum from a different angle. My example is on a much larger social scale, specifically related to what happened 20 years ago, in 1989: the revolutions of 1989. Back in 1989, I followed the revolutions on TV. Actions that were unimaginable before, were really happening. The masses courageously took action.

Many documentaries were broadcast to mark the anniversary and I watched one describing the fall of the Berlin Wall.  One little story in this documentary made a big impression on me. It was about an East German lady in her fifties, working for the local ice cream factory. Apparently, there was a constant ice cream shortage in East Germany and the entire quantity this factory produced was always sold in an instant. When western goods started to be sold in eastern shops, people stopped buying eastern products, among them ice cream. After the eastern ice cream could not be sold, the shopkeeper asked the factory to take its products back. This lady came and tried to convince clients to buy her factory's ice cream by explaining that otherwise the factory will be closed down and the workers will become unemployed. The clients couldn't care less. One client even replied that he was fed up with this ice cream for 40 years while it was the only one available and now he was taking his revenge. This woman disposed the refrigerator and its contents. A few month later the factory closed down and she was unemployed.

Lately, people are nostalgically reviving former East German products, including Trabant cars. A new word, "ostalgie", has been coined for the phenomenon.

These days people are buying agricultural products from local farms, for helping them stay in business and for saving transportation carbon dioxide, and non-profits help the unemployed, although volunteering and civil society are much weaker in the east than the west.

Initial large pendulum swings are human and understandable, but after 20 years, the pendulum motion has slowed down, swings are more moderate.

Friday, December 25, 2009


We left the apartment in the morning and locked the door with 2 locks, as usual. Forgot Tom was home and that the upper lock can only be opened from the outside. When he realized he was locked inside the apartment, he called. "I feel so frustrated having the keys and not being able to open the door. If  I could only stand on the other side of the door, I could open it".

I hope he applies more logic to his IDF work, otherwise this country is in real danger.

For the logically challenged: if he already stands on the other side of the door, he is outside, no need to open the door.

Happy ending: He called his friend, who happened to be in the neighborhood walking his dog, threw the key from the balcony and the friend came up and released him.

Additions to this post after Tom's comments:
Disclosure: Of course I understood what he meant at the time, he wished he could have got out without his backpack, stand on the other side of the door, open it and then take his stuff. I think it's still funny and we both shared a laugh on this little episode.

Full disclosure: Every mom would like to have a son like Tom, but only I, the luckiest mom on Earth, has the privilege of having him. And I thank God every day for it. I do.(Now I embarrassed him).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What's Wrong with Healthcare?

There are millions of people who don't have access to potable water, not to mention healthcare. In the US, healthcare is so expensive that middle-class unemployed cannot afford it. The democrats are working on improving the system, with no results so far. In communist countries healthcare is free, albeit usually not of the best quality. I was told that in ancient China, people paid their doctor only when healthy, but not when ill, so it was in the doctor's best interest to keep them healthy. What an incredibly clever idea!

Since the mandatory healthcare tax was introduced here, we get less for more, but everybody is insured and gets medical care through one of four existing sick funds. The insurance includes a finite number of consultations, lab tests, hospitalization, rehab and a 'basket' of medicine. Naturally, not every possible treatment is included and many hold different gold and platinum insurance plans or private policies to augment the basic coverage.

For historical reasons, dental care is not included in the basic package of any of the sick fund offerings. My private dentist schedules periodical check-ups and hygienist appointments and that seems to work out just fine. The less you use the sick fund service, the more it makes. So why should they tell you about screening tests you are entitled to according to your age group, gender and other criteria? To compensate for the lack of preventive medicine, one should take ownership over test requests and stats. Thanks to my employer, I attend a yearly medical check-up, but the results are not accessible by my GP, I have to bring them to him on paper and make him enter them into his computer, so that he can see the broader picture.

In recent years, since a wealth of medical information is available on the web, the doctor is no longer the only source of information and many look up their symptoms, lab test results and disease information. They read about treatment options and ask their doctor intelligent questions. According to our friend Andrei (the husband of a doctor and father of a med student), doctors will soon be replaced by software that given your symptoms will diagnose your problem. According to a radio program I recently listened to, personalized DNA-based healthcare is around the corner. Everything seems to go in the right direction, so what's wrong then?

My medical pet peeve is personal medical records. You should own them and not the private physicians or organizations that treat you for a certain condition. How? On a smart card or disk-on-key. The different service providers will add their data and the accumulated records will be analyzed by an ever upgraded software application that will provide you with stats and trends, recommend screening tests, remind you to take your prescribed drugs, renew prescriptions, make appointments, suggest further reading and keep you on top of the latest findings, procedures and rights. It shouldn't even cost you since many service providers will be happy to advertise their services based on your location. If you carry it with you at all times it can also be used in emergency situations by ambulance and trauma center personnel. The infrastructure is there, the funding is there, and I don't believe I'm the first or only one on the planet to think about this. So why doesn't it work that way? It takes a few champions to lobby for the initiative with the legislators and fight their way through red tape.

Anybody to take up that [surgical] glove?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Role Model

While kids at my age were crazy about ABBA and Boney M, oddly enough my teenage years were fandom-less. I listened and danced to their music, but wasn't into knowing every little fact or gossip about them. Many years later, in a work related training session, the trainer asked us who was our role model. "Marie Curie" I replied and was shocked to see nobody else in the room seemed to have heard about her. Her tremendous determination and achievements inspired many.

Of course there are many others whom I appreciate for achievements in other areas, such as the Hungarian Kishon-Lapid-Dosh trio. They made it despite all odds. I won't miss Yair Lapid's Friday column in Yedioth Aharonoth and I often watch him on Channel 2 on Friday evening as well. Often the two are inter-related. Shortly after he started to host the Friday news magazine, he instituted a "one good thing" corner, where he presented a positive news story. I enjoyed it, but after a short while, it was discontinued. In one of his articles he explained that its rating wasn't high enough to keep it going. Strangely enough, yesterday there were two very positive stories on the show: one about an Israeli ex-businessman who donates hundreds of millions of dollars to create a successful computerized learning system for schools and another one about Israel's newest Nobel prize winner, professor Ada Yonath. From the reportage I learned we have the same role model, Marie Curie (not that I can even remotely compare myself with them). Professor Yonath was annoyed to constantly being asked about the dress she will wear at the Nobel Prize award ceremony and about her hairdo for the event.

"Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas." - Marie Curie