Saturday morning coffee [January 24 2015]

“There is a fundamental question we all have to face. How are we to live our lives; by what principles and moral values will we be guided and inspired?” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

So much happens each and every week, and it’s hard to keep up sometimes. Here are some of the tabs that are open in my browser this morning along with some random thoughts….


American Sniper was #1 at the box office last weekend. I haven’t had an opportunity to see it yet, but I really want to. The movie has stirred up quite a bit of controversy because of its content. Here’s the thing people, it’s a movie. A piece of fiction. Entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less. If you’d like to see it, please do. If not, then don’t. I don’t typically walk into a movie expecting to enlightened. I go to be entertained.

Speaking of movies, I finally got around to seeing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014). I remember the hype around the cartoon when I was in college. On a whim I grabbed it from a nearby Redbox. There’s two hours of my life I’d like to have back. Hard to believe they could mess something up this badly, but they did.

I knew there was a reason I drink ten cups of coffee a day. New research says that coffee may lower the risk for the most serious type of skin cancer, malignant melanoma. However, it may not be as great as everyone was hoping. “Higher coffee intake was associated with a modest decrease in risk of melanoma in this large US cohort study. Additional investigations of coffee intake and its constituents, particularly caffeine, with melanoma are warranted.” Does this mean that if I drink more coffee my risk will be even lower? Hmm, I think it’s worth a shot. Consider the research underway. (source: JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst, 2015, 1-9)

Once again it appears that the New England Patriots have gone outside the NFL rulebook. “Deflategate” has been all over the internet this week. Apparently the Patriots had trouble keeping enough air in their balls (haha, couldn’t help myself). Hard to believe that the Patriots would do anything that wasn’t above board (sarcasm). Most people believe it had no bearing on the AFC title game, and I would agree. That game was never in question. The Patriots completely destroyed the Colts. On the other hand, what about the Divisional Round the week before when they had to come from behind to beat the Ravens by only four points? In a game where athletes have their 40 times recorded to the hundredth of a second, where quarterbacks are expected to place a ball into an area the size of a breadbox from 50 yards out, and where inches make all the difference between getting a touchdown and getting off the field, it’s hard to believe that having an underinflated football wouldn’t provide an advantage in cold weather. If it didn’t why would someone do it? What will become of the Patriots as a result of Deflategate? Nothing, the Super Bowl is too big. The NFL will fine them, but that organization won’t even blink an eye. They’ve done it before and proven they’ll keep doing it.

Speaking of cheating, I’ve heard a lot of people say that if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough. I would like to go on record as saying that that is a load of garbage. In my opinion your value as a human being is defined by what you do when others aren’t looking. How many of us as parents teach our children to be dishonest, or steel when no one is looking? None, I hope.

“Ernie Banks, known simply as “Mr. Cub” after hitting 512 home runs over a 19-year career spent entirely in Chicago, died Friday night at 83. Best known for his effusive “Let’s Play Two” phrase that epitomized the joy he felt for the game and brought to Wrigley Field, Banks was an 11-time All-Star, a first-ballot Hall of Famer and won consecutive National League MVP awards in 1958-59.” I’m no fan of baseball, but I am well aware of Mr. Banks legend, and this is a sad day for baseball fans everywhere. (source: USA Today)

Microsoft made some big announcements this week. They announced Windows 10, a new browser, changes to Windows Phone and Xbox, introduced their new desktop speech recognition platform (Cortana), along with a host of other things. Fortunately for everyone, The Verge made a short 8-minute video explaining it all.

It appears that pharmacists in Alberta are getting out in front of pharmacists here in the United States in regards to proactive patient care. “RxEACH” is an Alberta Health Services program in which pharmacists screen patients for vascular diseases and help them manage their risk. Pharmacists can identify high risk patients who might otherwise fall through the cracks. Pharmacists are enrolling up to 1,200 patients at 45 participating pharmacies across Alberta.” Pretty cool stuff, especially for the patients. (source: Global News)

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report, MEDICARE’S OVERSIGHT OF COMPOUNDED PHARMACEUTICALS USED IN HOSPITALS (PDF) earlier this week. Apparently there are still some gaps in how compounded products are procured by hospitals, and the safety of those products.  The report doesn’t really say a whole lot, but it’s worth a read if you’re in healthcare.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on i.v. rooms and compounded sterile products lately (CSP) lately. There’s a lot of information out there. The topic seems to be picking up speed. As I was doing a little research I came across this list of references on the AJHP site. The list puts a lot of key material in one place. It’s worth running through the list if you have any interest.

If you’re interested in robotics, Popular Science has a great article for you: The Year Ahead (And Behind) in Robotics. The author of the article doesn’t think robotics will make any great breakthroughs in 2015. Not sure whether I agree with him or not, but it’s an interesting take nonetheless. According to the article these will be the biggest trends in robotics for 2015: Investors will continue to invest heavily in robotics, people will continue to fear artificial intelligence, Hollywood will continue to misrepresent robots/robotics in movies, drones – and the problems associated with them – will continue to be on everyone’s mind, and wearable robotics may finally be ready for primetime. I don’t know about you, but I’m really looking forward to robotics in 2015.

Speaking of robotics, during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology at UC Berkeley tried to put everyone’s mind at ease about artificial intelligence (AI) by telling saying that robots can’t “even mimic two-year-olds yet, let alone cause damage“. Apparently there’s a difference in opinion on the matter, depending on who’s talking at the moment. Would you really want an A.I. robot acting like a two year old child? Just sayin’. (source: The Telegraph)

All of the stuff Microsoft announced was cool, but my favorite thing had to be the Microsoft Surface Hub. I mean, c’mon! How could you not like a giant 4K monitor that acts like a Surface Pro 3, including accepting stylus input? Wonder when they’ll release the giant Type Cover to match? Imagine typing on a keyboard that large. It would be akin to the Chopsticks scene in ‘Big‘.

As a pharmacist in a hospital I’ve always wondered why clinical staff, and therefore services, get cut back on the weekends. I’ve worked many a weekend and holiday with a skeleton crew in the pharmacy. Shouldn’t healthcare be a 24/7 type of thing? Well I’m not the only one that questions this practice. “It’s remarkable that hospitals still keep weekend schedules.  On the weekend, things stop.  They don’t stop, but they really do.  ORs operate with emergency staffing.  Routine diagnostic imaging is held until Monday morning…Weekend medicine is as much a mindset as it is a model of care at an analog pace.” Unfortunately it’s the patient that pays the ultimate price. (source: 33 charts)

Overall hospitals are good. They provide services that would otherwise leave many dead or permanently injured. With that said, not all hospitals are created equal. Out of unfortunate necessity I’ve had to spend a lot of time in several different hospitals over the past year; not for myself, but rather with family members. I’ve always known that hospitals provide better or worse care depending on location, size, demographics, and so on. However, this year I was struck by just how profound the differences between hospitals can be. For instance, the level of care provided to family members by hospitals here in the Central Valley of California paled in comparison to the care received by those same family members at facilities like UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. The differences are quite literally life and death. From the bedside nurse to the surgeons performing life saving operations, the differences are palpable. From the flow of information to the hands on approach used by the caregivers, one hospital is not the same as another. One can do nothing but feel pity and compassion for those that do not know the difference and continue to not receive the best possible care. I’ve considered writing at length about my experiences, but needless to say I live and work in the Central Valley of California. How employable as a pharmacist would I become if I came out and said “hospital X provides mediocre care and here’s why”? Probably end my career.

On the flip side, here’s something for Central California residents to be proud of. We’re building a high speed rail system, and everyone is talking about it. “After years of planning and legal challenges, California’s $68-billion bullet train is finally about to break ground. Work on the first leg of the system gets underway in Fresno, Tuesday. Once completed, it will be the nation’s first high-speed rail system. Traveling faster than a Ferrari at 220 miles per hour, the bullet train will slash in half the six-hour drive from northern to southern California.” The train will travel between L.A. and San Francisco. I’m looking forward to spending the day riding back and forth just because I can. (source: CBS San Francisco)

Have a great weekend everyone.

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