Episode 437 Scott Adams: A Potential System for Fixing Urban Blight


  • Blight Removal System – Whiteboard Discussion

I fund my Periscopes and podcasts via audience micro-donations on Patreon. I prefer this method over accepting advertisements or working for a “boss” somewhere because it keeps my voice independent. No one owns me, and that is rare. I’m trying in my own way to make the world a better place, and your contributions help me stay inspired to do that.

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The post Episode 437 Scott Adams: A Potential System for Fixing Urban Blight appeared first on Dilbert Blog.

Dilbert Blog

Nalpac, System JO Partner for ‘300 for 300’ Monthly Promo

Nalpac has announced a new ongoing monthly promotion with System JO called “300 for 300,” with Sheets of San Francisco serving as the first brand to participate in the co-op promotion this month.
XBIZ.com – Pleasure & Retail

Making the Fashion System Traceable, Transparent Focus of UNECE Forum

Full transparency might still be a pipe dream for politics, but the fashion industry is edging closer to that realization.
Next month several hundred leaders — from government, NGOs, designer houses, fast-fashion labels and other sectors — will converge in Paris for a two-day forum hosted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. “Measuring Impact” will be the theme of the event on Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector at the OECD in Paris. After an exploratory meeting last year that attracted nearly 500, the upcoming forum aims to answer such questions as, “Where are my clothes coming from?” and “How are they done?” according to UNECE’s acting head of Sustainable Trade and Outreach Unit Maria Teresa Pisani. “The objective of the project is to have consumers, as well as manufacturers, brands and others answer the question, ‘Where is this coming from? How is this made?’”
Adopted in 2017, the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment and Footwear Sector is designed to help companies meet the due diligence expectations laid out in the group’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Developed through a multi-stakeholder process, the Guidance was approved by all governments adhering to the OECD

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Toxicity – System Of A Down

System Of A Down - Toxicity  artwork


System Of A Down

Genre: Metal

Price: $ 9.99

Release Date: August 27, 2001

© ℗ 2001 Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

iTunes Store: Top Albums in Rock

This Shaving System Helps Prevent Razor Bumps

When it comes to getting the best shave, you need the right grooming tools to get rid of hair and leave your skin razor bump free. While there are plenty of shaving kits on the market that claim to live up to the hype, the Bevel Shave System has emerged as a clear frontrunner.

Designed to protect, cleanse and nourish your skin with each shave, the shave system makes sure to cover every step of your routine. Not sure where to start? Pick up the 90 Day Starter Kit, which has everything you need for the closest shave. This six-part system includes the Bevel safety razor, shave brush, priming oil, shave cream, restoring balm and 20 blades for a professional shave in the comfort of your own home.

Bevel Starter Kit

Crafted with natural ingredients, this dermatologist-approved formula will give your skin the attention it deserves. Castor, olive and sunflower oils soothe and soften, while aloe vera and tea tree oil provides a calming and hydrating effect. Even better, lactic and salicylic acids even out your skin tone and gently exfoliates your skin.

Dubbed as one of the safest ways to get a close shave, razor bumps and irritation are a thing of the past. Designed for all hair and skin types, even the roughest textures are easy to groom.

Ready to transform your shaving regimen? Shop the Bevel Shave System for only $ 89.95. You can even choose from the monthly, quarterly and annual subscription service to get more bang for your buck.

Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.

The post This Shaving System Helps Prevent Razor Bumps appeared first on Men's Journal.

Men’s Journal Latest Style News

Eropartner Now Stocks System Jo’s Prolonger Gel

Eropartner has announced it is now carrying System Jo’s Prolonger Gel.
XBIZ.com – Pleasure & Retail

Nalpac Introduces System JO Educational Blog Series

Nalpac, which is a System JO Preferred Partner, has introduced a new System JO-focused educational blog series with the first installment “Silicone Lubricant & Water-Based Lubricant” now available on the Nalpac blog.
XBIZ.com – Pleasure & Retail

Mark Salling’s Autopsy Reveals He Had Alcohol In His System When He Died

Mark Salling’s autopsy reveals the former “Glee” star was at the point of legal intoxication at the time of his death. According to multiple reports, Salling’s femoral blood alcohol level measured .08 percent and detected no other drugs – but where was the late actor last seen alive?

Access Hollywood Latest Videos

Joe Jonas’ Home Alarm System Scares Off Wannabe Burglar

Joe Jonas has his security system to thank for warding off a potential thief and keeping his name off the list of celebs who’ve had their homes burglarized … TMZ has learned. Law enforcement sources tell us … the DNCE lead singer’s home surveillance…


TMZ Celebrity News for Music

Nervous System – Julia Michaels

Julia Michaels - Nervous System  artwork

Nervous System

Julia Michaels

Genre: Pop

Price: $ 5.99

Release Date: July 28, 2017

© ℗ 2017 Republic Records, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc.

iTunes Store: Top Albums in Pop

Al Sharpton Says Meek Mill Wants to Fix the System for Others, Promises to Help in His Case

[[tmz:video id=”0_c358gcik”]] Al Sharpton met with Meek Mill behind bars, and says the rapper told him he wanted to serve as a vessel of change for others who are wrongly imprisoned … like he is now. Al appeared Monday alongside…


TMZ Celebrity News for Celebrity Justice

Butty System

Victor met Cody Valentine at a pool party and has craved his sweet hairy ass ever since. When Cody called and said he wanted fucked and bred on film Victor jumped at the opportunity to get a piece of his sweet ass and invited Travis Woods to help satisfy it. Victor couldnt wait on Travis so by the time he arrived Victor had Cody undressed and his hard tongue deep up Codys fuzzy little tight hole. After trading off licking and eating Victor slides his cock balls deep in that ass. After a good pumping Victor finally relinquishes it over to travis who is eager to get that hole wrapped around his throbbing cock. Cody takes it like only an experienced bottom can until finally the massive cock duo decides it is time to use the buddy system on him and pump both cocks in him at the same time. Cody moans with satisfaction as thier two cocks rub together in and out of his stretches hole. Victor is the first to loose it emptying the first massive squirt all over Cody’s cock filled ass then slides in and empties the rest of his heavy balls all over travis’s cock inside of Cody. The two finally pull out and Travis unleashes his massive load for Cody to lick up. Travis sits on Cody’s face and Victor mounts his ass again. Victor soon explodes with a second huge load causing Cody to erupt with a gargantuan torrent of white creamy thick semen, proving this butty system worked great.

Watch the Full Length, High Quality Movie!

Victor met Cody Valentine at a pool party and has craved his sweet hairy ass ever since. When Cody called and said he wanted fucked and bred on film Victor jumped at the opportunity to get a piece of his sweet ass and invited Travis Woods to help satisfy!

Stars: Cody Valentine Travis Woods Victor Cody

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Scene Number: 1

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Nervous System – Julia Michaels

Julia Michaels - Nervous System  artwork

Nervous System

Julia Michaels

Genre: Pop

Price: $ 5.99

Release Date: July 28, 2017

© ℗ 2017 Republic Records, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc.

iTunes Store: Top Albums in Pop

Health Care is a System, Not a Goal

Last night, Senator McCain cast the deciding vote to kill the “skinny” version of a proposed health care bill. Notice how he explains it as a failure of process, not a problem with the bill itself:

“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict-party line basis without a single Republican vote. We should not make the mistakes of the past that has led to Obamacare’s collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace. We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people. We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve.”

Love him or hate him, McCain did what heroes do. He took a bullet to prevent Congress from ignoring the wishes of half the country. Now we have a chance to do it right. Let in some new voices. Consider some new options. Make it a team effort.

My optimism for a good health care outcome just hit its peak. Had they passed a bill, it would have limited their options for improvement to the stale ideas we’ve already heard. Now, for the first time, the public and perhaps Democrats can contribute some ideas and broaden the options.

Today is a very good day disguised as a bad one. If you think in terms of goals, Congress failed to pass a bill last night. But if you think in terms of systems, our options for solving health care just went from limited to plenty. We’re in the best position yet.

Did you wonder why President Trump seemed somewhat hands-off on health care? I think it’s because his strongest play as a negotiator involved waiting until Congress utterly and completely failed. That almost didn’t happen last night. It took a war hero to finish the job. 

Now it’s our turn to come up with better ideas, or to support better ideas wherever we see them. And if we are smart, we will insist on testing some ideas in limited ways, such as Special Health Care Zones in some states, and that sort of thing.

And we should be focused on innovation and technology to lower health care costs. There isn’t any other path forward.

You might enjoy reading my book because it is all about how systems are better than goals.

I’m also on…

Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

YouTube: At this link.

Instagram: ScottAdams925

Facebook Official Page: fb.me/ScottAdamsOfficial

Scott Adams’ Blog

Spotify Shuts Down Rumors They Use Fake Artist Accounts To Pimp The System

The statement comes after not one — but three publications have all sung the same song.

HipHopDX News

My Tissue Management System

My tissue management system might seem excessive to you, but allow me to explain.

When you need a tissue, timing can be critical. Unfortunately, the tissue industry does not attract the finest industrial designers in the land. There is no Jony Ive in the snot-removal business. I don’t mean to be unkind, but tissue box designers are probably not the same people who designed the Tesla. That’s all I’m saying.

And it shows. Often I attempt to grab one tissue and six come out in a clump. Sometimes I have to excavate inside the box, clawing at the wadded hump of tissues with my fingernails like some crazed badger until they release their bounty. Sometimes I need multiple tissues and I am disappointed that there is only one left. Why didn’t I buy tissues when I was just at the store??!!!

Sometimes a tissue sticks in the box’s opening and I accidentally lift the entire box off the counter. Once airborne, gravity separates the box from the tissue and before you know it the room is a frenzy of cardboard, tissues, and bodily fluids. Sometimes cursing is involved. That’s my experience anyway.

You can fool me once. And you can fool me several times a day for several decades. But sooner or later I will put a row of tissue boxes together and solve this problem for good.

Why so many?

Well, for starters, it serves as a monument to my ingenuity. There’s that. And it gives me great calm to know this one area of my life is totally under control. But the exact number of boxes is based on this calculation:

– One box is often out of tissues.

– One box often has tissues curled up in a tight ball, unwilling to be part of the job.

– One box often has a tissue dispenser jam and can’t be safely operated with your one available hand. (Say you have a beverage in the other.)

– One box is usually a duplicate problem to one of the above mentioned.

And that leaves the fifth box as a probable source of tissues. There’s a sixth box in a decorative container at the end of the row, but that’s just for looks. Unless I need it.

Sometimes I read books. Other times I write them.

Scott Adams Blog

Taylor Swift’s System

Taylor Swift had a system for not flaming out during her career. She continues to be the smartest player in her space.

Once you start seeing the world in terms of systems versus goals, it starts to explain why some people get better results than others. And as you know, my book has plenty on that topic.

Scott Adams Blog

Design FX – Noah: Controlling an Epic Rain-Making System with a Single App

And on the eighth day, we got apps. Fxguide’s Mike Seymour details the how the upcoming blockbuster, Noah, was able to control the mechanics of a giant custom rain machine in a studio that size of two football fields with the use of a single iPad app.
WIRED Videos – The Scene

Eropartner Adds System JO Coconut Fusion Lube

Eropartner Distribution has added System JO’s Coconut Fusion Hybrid Lube to its assortment.
XBIZ.com | Top Stories

Infographic: How To Reform The Nation’s Prison System

With pressing issues such as overcrowding, overuse of solitary confinement, and the long-term incarceration of nonviolent offenders, many critics of the nation’s prison system are calling for sweeping reforms. Here are some of the proposals to improve the prison system:

  • Create thousands of productive jobs for inmates constructing more prisons
  • Use solitary confinement only in cases of severe guard anger
  • Slightly shorter prison sentences for those who were wrongfully convicted
  • Take preventative measures by working with kids to convince them not to grow up in areas with disproportionately high incarceration levels
  • Some more dogs to read to or train or whatever
  • Ease the emotional strain caused by inmates’ separation from their families by imprisoning their loved ones with them
  • Increase length of a life sentence to 150 years to really deter potential criminals
  • Avoid whole prison reform headache by solving nation’s education, mental health, drug problems instead

The Onion

System Of A Down Play To 80 People In Brazil Hotel Bar

Prior to their performance before a crowd of 80,000 at Rock in Rio, System of a Down played before a crowd of 80 at a hotel bar in Brazil. Video of the impromptu gig shot by the band’s manager saw the band jamming on “Toxicity.” “What happens in #Rio rocks Rio!” the rep captioned the vid on Instagram.
RTT – Music
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Nalpac Now Offering System Jo Silicone-Free Hybrid Lube

Nalpac is now distributing System Jo’s hybrid blend of lube that blends water with coconut oil.
XBIZ.com | Top Stories

News in Brief: Study Finds Harshly Criticizing U.S. Education System Only Causing It To Fall Further Behind Peers

PALO ALTO, CA—Explaining that even the most well-meaning criticism can lead to adverse repercussions, a study released Thursday by researchers at Stanford University has found that berating the U.S. education system has only caused it to fall further behind its international peers. “We often feel compelled to point out flaws and shortcomings when we’re trying to help our nation achieve its goals, but our research shows that criticizing a struggling institution like the United States education system actually lowers its confidence and causes it to perform even more poorly,” said the study’s lead author, Julie Ostel, who noted that authorities’ tendency to harp on the country’s substandard math and science skills was correlated with steady declines in math and science test scores. “People might think they’re helping when they highlight the educational deficits of our school systems by comparing them to academic standouts like …

The Onion

Williams Trading Offers System JO Course

Veteran adult distributor Williams Trading Co. is now offering the new e-learning course, Selling Lube and Related Add-ons, hosted by Williams Trading University (WTU).
XBIZ.com | Top Stories

Windows 95 Turns 20: Denzel Washington Gives His Favorite Memories Of The Legendary Operating System

Windows 95 Turns 20: Denzel Washington Gives His Favorite Memories Of The Legendary Operating System

Windows 95 Turns 20: Denzel Washingto…
Now that Windows 95 is 20 years old, it’s time to reminisce about its best features. We asked Denzel Washington what he looks back on with fond memories.
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Views: 2,705

Funny or Die | Funny Videos, Funny Video Clips, Funny Pictures

Is George Clooney Arguing With His Neighbors Over a Brand-New Security System? Get the Scoop!

Is George Clooney the best neighbor ever? Not according to some residents.

The Tomorrowland star appears to be ruffling a few feathers as he tries to gain approval on a new security…

E! Online (US) – Top Stories
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Street Fighter V E3 2015: Battle System Overview


Our first look at Street Fighter V brings a glimpse of the game’s look and feel at E3 2015.
GameTrailers.com Videos Hub

Hacking The Nervous System

(Photo: © Job Boot)

One nerve connects your vital organs, sensing and shaping your health. If we learn to control it, the future of medicine will be electric.

When Maria Vrind, a former gymnast from Volendam in the Netherlands, found that the only way she could put her socks on in the morning was to lie on her back with her feet in the air, she had to accept that things had reached a crisis point. “I had become so stiff I couldn’t stand up,” she says. “It was a great shock because I’m such an active person.”

It was 1993. Vrind was in her late 40s and working two jobs, athletics coach and a carer for disabled people, but her condition now began taking over her life. “I had to stop my jobs and look for another one as I became increasingly disabled myself.” By the time she was diagnosed, seven years later, she was in severe pain and couldn’t walk any more. Her knees, ankles, wrists, elbows and shoulder joints were hot and inflamed. It was rheumatoid arthritis, a common but incurable autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own cells, in this case the lining of the joints, producing chronic inflammation and bone deformity.

Waiting rooms outside rheumatoid arthritis clinics used to be full of people in wheelchairs. That doesn’t happen as much now because of a new wave of drugs called biopharmaceuticals – such as highly targeted, genetically engineered proteins – which can really help. Not everyone feels better, however: even in countries with the best healthcare, at least 50 per cent of patients continue to suffer symptoms.

Like many patients, Vrind was given several different medications, including painkillers, a cancer drug called methotrexate to dampen her entire immune system, and biopharmaceuticals to block the production of specific inflammatory proteins. The drugs did their job well enough – at least, they did until one day in 2011, when they stopped working.

“I was on holiday with my family and my arthritis suddenly became terrible and I couldn’t walk – my daughter-in-law had to wash me.” Vrind was rushed to hospital, where she was hooked up to an intravenous drip and given another cancer drug, one that targeted her white blood cells. “It helped,” she admits, but she was nervous about relying on such a drug long-term.

Luckily, she would not have to. As she was resigning herself to a life of disability and monthly chemotherapy, a new treatment was being developed that would profoundly challenge our understanding of how the brain and body interact to control the immune system. It would open up a whole new approach to treating rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, using the nervous system to modify inflammation. It would even lead to research into how we might use our minds to stave off disease.

And, like many good ideas, it came from an unexpected source.

(Photo: © Job Boot)

The nerve hunter

Kevin Tracey, a neurosurgeon based in New York, is a man haunted by personal events – a man with a mission. “My mother died from a brain tumour when I was five years old. It was very sudden and unexpected,” he says. “And I learned from that experience that the brain – nerves – are responsible for health.” This drove his decision to become a brain surgeon. Then, during his hospital training, he was looking after a patient with serious burns who suddenly suffered severe inflammation. “She was an 11-month-old baby girl called Janice who died in my arms.” 

These traumatic moments made him a neurosurgeon who thinks a lot about inflammation. He believes it was this perspective that enabled him to interpret the results of an accidental experiment in a new way.

In the late 1990s, Tracey was experimenting with a rat’s brain. “We’d injected an anti-inflammatory drug into the brain because we were studying the beneficial effect of blocking inflammation during a stroke,” he recalls. “We were surprised to find that when the drug was present in the brain, it also blocked inflammation in the spleen and in other organs in the rest of the body. Yet the amount of drug we’d injected was far too small to have got into the bloodstream and travelled to the rest of the body.” 

After months puzzling over this, he finally hit upon the idea that the brain might be using the nervous system – specifically the vagus nerve – to tell the spleen to switch off inflammation everywhere.

It was an extraordinary idea – if Tracey was right, inflammation in body tissues was being directly regulated by the brain. Communication between the immune system’s specialist cells in our organs and bloodstream and the electrical connections of the nervous system had been considered impossible. Now Tracey was apparently discovering that the two systems were intricately linked.

The first critical test of this exciting hypothesis was to cut the vagus nerve. When Tracey and his team did, injecting the anti-inflammatory drug into the brain no longer had an effect on the rest of the body. The second test was to stimulate the nerve without any drug in the system. “Because the vagus nerve, like all nerves, communicates information through electrical signals, it meant that we should be able to replicate the experiment by putting a nerve stimulator on the vagus nerve in the brainstem to block inflammation in the spleen,” he explains. “That’s what we did and that was the breakthrough experiment.”

(Photo: © Job Boot)

The wandering nerve

The vagus nerve starts in the brainstem, just behind the ears. It travels down each side of the neck, across the chest and down through the abdomen. ‘Vagus’ is Latin for ‘wandering’ and indeed this bundle of nerve fibres roves through the body, networking the brain with the stomach and digestive tract, the lungs, heart, spleen, intestines, liver and kidneys, not to mention a range of other nerves that are involved in speech, eye contact, facial expressions and even your ability to tune in to other people’s voices. It is made of thousands and thousands of fibres and 80 per cent of them are sensory, meaning that the vagus nerve reports back to your brain what is going on in your organs.

Operating far below the level of our conscious minds, the vagus nerve is vital for keeping our bodies healthy. It is an essential part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming organs after the stressed ‘fight-or-flight’ adrenaline response to danger. Not all vagus nerves are the same, however: some people have stronger vagus activity, which means their bodies can relax faster after a stress.

The strength of your vagus response is known as your vagal tone and it can be determined by using an electrocardiogram to measure heart rate. Every time you breathe in, your heart beats faster in order to speed the flow of oxygenated blood around your body. Breathe out and your heart rate slows. This variability is one of many things regulated by the vagus nerve, which is active when you breathe out but suppressed when you breathe in, so the bigger your difference in heart rate when breathing in and out, the higher your vagal tone.

Research shows that a high vagal tone makes your body better at regulating blood glucose levels, reducing the likelihood of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Low vagal tone, however, has been associated with chronic inflammation. As part of the immune system, inflammation has a useful role helping the body to heal after an injury, for example, but it can damage organs and blood vessels if it persists when it is not needed. One of the vagus nerve’s jobs is to reset the immune system and switch off production of proteins that fuel inflammation. Low vagal tone means this regulation is less effective and inflammation can become excessive, such as in Maria Vrind’s rheumatoid arthritis or in toxic shock syndrome, which Kevin Tracey believes killed little Janice.

Having found evidence of a role for the vagus in a range of chronic inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, Tracey and his colleagues wanted to see if it could become a possible route for treatment. The vagus nerve works as a two-way messenger, passing electrochemical signals between the organs and the brain. In chronic inflammatory disease, Tracey figured, messages from the brain telling the spleen to switch off production of a particular inflammatory protein, tumour necrosis factor (TNF), weren’t being sent. Perhaps the signals could be boosted?

He spent the next decade meticulously mapping all the neural pathways involved in regulating TNF, from the brainstem to the mitochondria inside all our cells. Eventually, with a robust understanding of how the vagus nerve controlled inflammation, Tracey was ready to test whether it was possible to intervene in human disease.

(Photo: © Job Boot)

Stimulating trial

In the summer of 2011, Maria Vrind saw a newspaper advertisement calling for people with severe rheumatoid arthritis to volunteer for a clinical trial. Taking part would involve being fitted with an electrical implant directly connected to the vagus nerve. “I called them immediately,” she says. “I didn’t want to be on anticancer drugs my whole life; it’s bad for your organs and not good long-term.”

Tracey had designed the trial with his collaborator, Paul-Peter Tak, professor of rheumatology at the University of Amsterdam. Tak had long been searching for an alternative to strong drugs that suppress the immune system to treat rheumatoid arthritis. “The body’s immune response only becomes a problem when it attacks your own body rather than alien cells, or when it is chronic,” he reasoned. “So the question becomes: how can we enhance the body’s switch-off mechanism? How can we drive resolution?”

When Tracey called him to suggest stimulating the vagus nerve might be the answer by switching off production of TNF, Tak quickly saw the potential and was enthusiastic to see if it would work. Vagal nerve stimulation had already been approved in humans for epilepsy, so getting approval for an arthritis trial would be relatively straightforward. A more serious potential hurdle was whether people used to taking drugs for their condition would be willing to undergo an operation to implant a device inside their body: “There was a big question mark about whether patients would accept a neuroelectric device like a pacemaker,” Tak says.

He needn’t have worried. More than a thousand people expressed interest in the procedure, far more than were needed for the trial. In November 2011, Vrind was the first of 20 Dutch patients to be operated on.

“They put the pacemaker on the left-hand side of my chest, with wires that go up and attach to the vagus nerve in my throat,” she says. “I waited two weeks while the area healed, and then the doctors switched it on and adjusted the settings for me.”

She was given a magnet to swipe across her throat six times a day, activating the implant and stimulating her vagus nerve for 30 seconds at a time. The hope was that this would reduce the inflammatory response in her spleen. As Vrind and the other trial participants were sent home, it became a waiting game for Tracey, Tak and the team to see if the theory, lab studies and animal trials would bear fruit in real patients. “We hoped that for some, there would be an easing of their symptoms – perhaps their joints would become a little less painful,” Tak says.

At first, Vrind was a bit too eager for a miracle cure. She immediately stopped taking her pills, but her symptoms came back so badly that she was bedridden and in terrible pain. She went back on the drugs and they were gradually reduced over a week instead.

And then the extraordinary happened: Vrind experienced a recovery more remarkable than she or the scientists had dared hope for.

“Within a few weeks, I was in a great condition,” she says. “I could walk again and cycle, I started ice-skating again and got back to my gymnastics. I feel so much better.” She is still taking methotrexate, which she will need at a low dose for the rest of her life, but at 68, semi-retired Vrind now plays and teaches seniors’ volleyball a couple of hours a week, cycles for at least an hour every day, does gymnastics, and plays with her eight grandchildren.

Other patients on the trial had similar transformative experiences. The results are still being prepared for publication but Tak says more than half of the patients showed significant improvement and around one-third are in remission – in effect cured of their rheumatoid arthritis. Sixteen of the 20 patients on the trial not only felt better, but measures of inflammation in their blood also went down. Some are now entirely drug-free. Even those who have not experienced clinically significant improvements with the implant insist it helps them; nobody wants it removed.

“We have shown very clear trends with stimulation of three minutes a day,” Tak says. “When we discontinued stimulation, you could see disease came back again and levels of TNF in the blood went up. We restarted stimulation, and it normalised again.”

Tak suspects that patients will continue to need vagal nerve stimulation for life. But unlike the drugs, which work by preventing production of immune cells and proteins such as TNF, vagal nerve stimulation seems to restore the body’s natural balance. It reduces the over-production of TNF that causes chronic inflammation but does not affect healthy immune function, so the body can respond normally to infection.

“I’m really glad I got into the trial,” says Vrind. “It’s been more than three years now since the implant and my symptoms haven’t returned. At first I felt a pain in my head and throat when I used it, but within a couple of days, it stopped. Now I don’t feel anything except a tightness in my throat and my voice trembles while it’s working.

“I have occasional stiffness or a little pain in my knee sometimes but it’s gone in a couple of hours. I don’t have any side-effects from the implant, like I had with the drugs, and the effect is not wearing off, like it did with the drugs.”

(Photo: © Job Boot)

Raising the tone

Having an electrical device surgically implanted into your neck for the rest of your life is a serious procedure. But the technique has proved so successful – and so appealing to patients – that other researchers are now looking into using vagal nerve stimulation for a range of other chronic debilitating conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome and obesity.

But what about people who just have low vagal tone, whose physical and mental health could benefit from giving it a boost? Low vagal tone is associated with a range of health risks, whereas people with high vagal tone are not just healthier, they’re also socially and psychologically stronger – better able to concentrate and remember things, happier and less likely to be depressed, more empathetic and more likely to have close friendships.

Twin studies show that to a certain extent, vagal tone is genetically predetermined – some people are born luckier than others. But low vagal tone is more prevalent in those with certain lifestyles – people who do little exercise, for example. This led psychologists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to wonder if the relationship between vagal tone and wellbeing could be harnessed without the need for implants.

In 2010, Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kok recruited around 70 university staff members for an experiment. Each volunteer was asked to record the strength of emotions they felt every day. Vagal tone was measured at the beginning of the experiment and at the end, nine weeks later. As part of the experiment, half of the participants were taught a meditation technique to promote feelings of goodwill towards themselves and others. 

Those who meditated showed a significant rise in vagal tone, which was associated with reported increases in positive emotions. “That was the first experimental evidence that if you increased positive emotions and that led to increased social closeness, then vagal tone changed,” Kok says.

Now at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, Kok is conducting a much larger trial to see if the results they found can be replicated. If so, vagal tone could one day be used as a diagnostic tool. In a way, it already is. “Hospitals already track heart-rate variability – vagal tone – in patients that have had a heart attack,” she says, “because it is known that having low variability is a risk factor.”

The implications of being able to simply and cheaply improve vagal tone, and so relieve major public health burdens such as cardiovascular conditions and diabetes, are enormous. It has the potential to completely change how we view disease. If visiting your GP involved a check on your vagal tone as easily as we test blood pressure, for example, you could be prescribed therapies to improve it. But this is still a long way off: “We don’t even know yet what a healthy vagal tone looks like,” cautions Kok. “We’re just looking at ranges, we don’t have precise measurements like we do for blood pressure.” 

What seems more likely in the shorter term is that devices will be implanted for many diseases that today are treated by drugs: “As the technology improves and these devices get smaller and more precise,” says Kevin Tracey, “I envisage a time where devices to control neural circuits for bioelectronic medicine will be injected – they will be placed either under local anesthesia or under mild sedation.”

However the technology develops, our understanding of how the body manages disease has changed for ever. “It’s become increasingly clear that we can’t see organ systems in isolation, like we did in the past,” says Paul-Peter Tak. “We just looked at the immune system and therefore we have medicines that target the immune system.

“But it’s very clear that the human is one entity: mind and body are one. It sounds logical but it’s not how we looked at it before. We didn’t have the science to agree with what may seem intuitive. Now we have new data and new insights.”

And Maria Vrind, who despite severe rheumatoid arthritis can now cycle pain-free around Volendam, has a new lease of life: “It’s not a miracle – they told me how it works through electrical impulses – but it feels magical. I don’t want them to remove it ever. I have my life back!”

This story first appeared on Mosaic and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Flag Hill: Goal or System?

Dateline: February 19, 2015. Sunol, CA. 

My third attempt to reach the top of Flag Hill.

Background: I tried hiking to the top of this hill in mid 2014. Halfway up I was exhausted and defeated. My younger, better-looking hiking partner was not impressed. She could have sprinted to the summit while texting at the same time. With my manhood in tatters, I slunk down the hill. But I vowed to someday come back and beat Flag Hill. Now it was personal.

A few months later I tried Flag Hill again but my timing was bad. The bridge to the trail was under construction. So I aborted.

Last week, with my brother Dave in town, I decided to take a third attempt at Flag Hill. I had been focusing my recent workouts on cardio and lower-body strength. It was time to see if the preparation made a difference.

Here’s a 22-second video of my training progress on a different hill.

This is the parking lot at the base of Flag Hill and other trails. My brother is the prime photographer for the day. He’s the tiny pink blob. Above him and to the left is the peak to which we are heading on foot from here.


The bridge has been repaired since my last failed attempt. So far, so good.


They still have this warning sign that mother nature intends to kill me one way or another before I leave Flag Hill. But I wasn’t going to let a rattlesnake bite or a rabid mountain lion slow me down. Today was my day.


It appears there are over seven hundred ways to get lost on these trails. And no phone service. Eek.


Starts out easy. But this is a fake-out.


Okay, getting steep now. The trip to the summit is only 1.3 miles but because of the grade we will need to take lots of rest breaks that we will call photo opportunities.


The rolling foothills are easy. The hard part is in the distance.


Wow, did we pick a good day. (Apologies to all you folks in snow.) February is rarely this warm in Northern California, and you don’t get many days of green grass. This will be mostly brown in a few months. The area had been fogged-in and cold just an hour before this picture.

This is the view looking down toward where we started.


Still looking down the hill.


Now straight ahead to Flag Hill (below) in the distance.


The trails are so beautiful you think you are in some sort of fantasy world.


Even the trees look other-worldly today.


This rock, below, is at about the halfway point. The first time I hiked this far I was exhausted and had to turn back. This time I had specifically trained for hills, and we paced it better. Apparently the preparation worked because I wasn’t tired at this point.


Some of the trails are what I imagine I would find on a Peruvian mountain.


There it is. 

My nemesis.

Flag Hill.

This is the hard part.


Phew! The steepest part is over. But not done yet.


A few minutes later a very good day became a spectacular one. 


Flag Hill, I own you now, buddy. But the rest of you are welcome to visit 🙂

In the end it wasn’t terrifically challenging because I was better prepared this time and we paced things well. But it sure felt good to finish.

Some of you will be quick to point out that my quest to climb Flag Hill looks a lot like a goal, and I am the guy who wrote a book saying goals are for losers; systems are better. Allow me to explain.

Goals make sense for simple, near-term objectives, such as hiking a particular hill. But for complicated and unpredictable situations, such as the arc of your professional career over decades, a system is better, in part because you are unlikely to keep the same priorities and goals over that period. When the environment changes, as it always does, you will change too. A better strategy for the long run is to improve your market value in a variety of ways and hope luck doesn’t ignore you forever.

My goal of hiking Flag Hill to the top bothered me every day from the moment I set it. It made me feel like a loser for months. That’s why I normally avoid goals. But this one came to me organically when I failed in front of someone I cared about. That made it personal. I had to check it off the list to feel right. 

I get that way sometimes.

Luckily I also have a system that involves daily exercise and adding variety to the mix when I can. So in this case my somewhat toxic goal of climbing Flag Hill was a convenient focus for my exercise system, and in that sense it worked.

I am not eager to set another goal for myself. But I sure am glad this one worked out.



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The Temporary Dictator System

I propose a constitutional amendment to allow Bill Gates to become dictator of the United States for one year. The only exception to his power would be control of the military. The civilian president along with Congress would still control military actions and policies. That should prevent any temporary dictators from consolidating power and becoming permanent.

During Bill Gates' one year run as dictator he could create any laws he wished, change national priorities any way he liked, and generally fix things without a lot of political friction. He could even tweak the Constitution while he's in power.

At the end of Gates' one-year reign, the returning civilian government could – if they want – reverse any of his laws, but doing so would be politically perilous because Bill is likely to have good reasons for what he did. We can depend on political timidity and inertia to keep most of our dictator's laws on the books after he leaves.

I picked Bill Gates for this example because I'm not entirely sure he has a political leaning. He's probably a robot from the future. And at this point I think he has removed all doubt about whether his motives are pure. These days he obviously isn't in it for the money. And we would expect him to bring a high degree of rational thought to any decision. What more do we want?

I deal with lots of odd legal contracts in my career, ranging from licensing to publishing to public appearances and more. The default solution to almost every contract issue is to make the term short. The shorter the term, the less likely something will go wrong that can't be fixed. I'm using the same idea for the dictator concept. A permanent dictator would be the worst system in the world because power eventually corrupts even the nicest human. But a one-year term for our dictator removes most of the potential problems. As long as the dictator doesn't control the police, military, or intelligence services, he or she can't cause too much trouble in a year.

Overall, I like our "sticky" political system with its perpetual gridlock because that means only the most important issues become laws. But every ten years or so, we probably need a temporary dictator to clean out our political closets and get some useful things done.

If you look at the United States as a system, or a big machine, it is lumbering along with nothing but basic maintenance. We have a political system that was designed during the age of horse-drawn carriages and it no longer fits the times. (Or at least it ignores the opportunities of the Internet age.) We need a system that occasionally rebuilds the entire engine of democracy as opposed to keeping the old system dusted and oiled for eternity.

I think the temporary dictator system could be a huge economic advantage over our international rivals. Their systems would either be Putin-like dictatorships that self-destruct in the dictator's lifetime or bloated democracy-inspired systems that are gridlocked beyond usefulness. Our hybrid system with its temporary dictatorship every ten years could be the best system of all.

What do you think?


Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com     
Author of this book 
Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily
Twitter for Scott: @ScottAdamsSays


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Colorado Marijuana Industry Gets New Banking System

Colorado lawmakers have approved the world’s first banking system designed to accommodate the marijuana industry The Associated Press reports After Governor John Hickenlooper signs the bill it could take effect following approval from the Federal Reserve The Great Marijuana Experiment A Tale of Two Drug Wars With the recreational sale of weed…

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Indie Band Exploits Spotify's Payment System With Completely Silent Album

Sometimes, silence really is golden.

At least that was the case for the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based indie funk band Vulfpeck, which used a 10-song album called “Sleepify” composed entirely of silence to rake in an estimated $ 30,000 from Spotify for streaming royalties. That is, until Spotify decided to silence the silence.

For Vulfpeck, “Sleepify” was one part troll-esque marketing stunt, one part organic crowdfunding scheme. In March, Vulfpeck put “Sleepify” on Spotify and released a video with keyboardist Jack Stratton, who had a plea for fans: Stream this album of silence over and over while you sleep, and we will use the money Spotify pays us to fund a free tour. Considering a Spotify song only needs to be played for at least 30 seconds to register as a play, the 10 songs on “Sleepify” titled “Z” through “Zzzzzzzzzz,” are all 31 or 32 seconds long.

At first, Spotify seemed to appreciate the savvy workaround by Vulfpeck. “This is a clever stunt, but we prefer Vulpeck’s earlier albums,” Spotify spokesman Graham James told Billboard in March. But by April, Spotify issued the band a takedown notice for a terms-of-service violation. This week, the streaming service took the album down completely.

In response to the initial takedown notice, Vulfpeck released an album on Spotify titled “Official Statement,” featuring a statement doused in reverb and delay, a track that’s 31 seconds of silence and a 32-second keyboard instrumental.

You can listen to the band’s “Official Statement” below in “#Hurt.”

But even though the album eventually got pulled off the airwaves, “Sleepify” brought attention both to Vulfpeck’s actual work and to how Spotify’s payment system works. The stunt highlights the occasionally contentious relationship between indie labels, artists and streaming services when it comes to how to work out compensation. Indeed, inspired by Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke pulling the catalog of his Atoms for Piece side project from Spotify, several indie labels told HuffPost in July that they would support their artists if they were to boycott the service.

“They’ve set up this economy where they get 30 percent and [content owners] get 70 percent,” Vulfpeck’s Stratton said to Billboard. “And surprise, the payout is very low.” He told Billboard he estimates the payout for the silent album will be about $ 30,000 based on the 5.4 million streams for “Sleepify” and what the band’s made in previous payouts. However, Stratton told Gawker the band hasn’t technically been paid yet.

“Spotify pays two months after the listen. So we’ll know in May sometime,” he said.

[H/T On The Media]
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