Dental care in the UK?

I don’t know if the story I am about to link to is a very widespread issue or not, but if you believe the article it would seem that it is, and growing worse.  This is an article about a young lady who could not find proper dental care under the new national program put in place in April 2006 by the British government.  I am neither in support of nor opposed to nationalized healthcare here in the US.  I believe both sides of this debate make some preposterous claims as well as some viable claims.    Setting aside your own beliefs over whether nationalized healthcare is good or bad, read at the Daily Mail about a young lady who had to have all her teeth removed due to long-term gum disease issues that she could not find a dentist to help resolve.

Like so many young women, Amy King always took great pride in her appearance.

Standing in front of the mirror to check her make-up before a night out, the 21-year-old would always try a smile – friends told her they loved the way it lit up her face.

Eight weeks ago, all that changed. The student from Plymouth was admitted to hospital where, in a single operation, she had every tooth in her mouth removed.

Amy, whose dental problems were caused by untreated gum disease, does not go out any more. And when she looks in the mirror she hardly recognises the face staring back at her.

This is absolutely an extreme case.  It is not indicative of how nationalized medicine does or does not work.  The problem here appears to be over the management of the nationalized dental care, not the mere fact that it is nationalized.  I point this out, because one cannot look at this one case and claim nationalized care programs do not work.  On the other hand, proponents of nationalized healthcare cannot wave this away as a complete aberration that should not be evaluated when discussing nationalized coverage.

According to the article, teeth extractions in the hospital are up a statistically significant amount.  There is also an increase in the time it takes to get dental care, as well as suggestions that more advanced problem cases are not getting proper treatment due to how the national dental contract works.  Furthermore, there is an increase in home-care for dental issues.  This article even mentions a specific case of a woman pulling her own teeth when she couldn’t get to see a national provider.  Ouch.

As I said above – I’m neither for nor against national healthcare programs.  I see problems and benefits for providing universal coverage as well as for staying with what we have now.  I don’t think it’s a simple problem, and anyone who tells you one side or the other is clearly correct can only say that because they haven’t studied the cost and benefits well enough.  I do believe there is a true push toward nationalized care here in the US that will eventually succeed.  I do believe there will be benefits for many people as a result.  I also believe that some people will be left worse than what they have now, and that while some people will pay less overall for this coverage, many will also pay more.  I think it’s an important discussion to have, but I also think that knowing more than just the facts that support your own side are vital.

And a final note – the story says that Ms. King doesn’t like to go out any more, nor to smile.  But honestly, looking at her picture I still think she looks great.

[tags]UK, England, Nationalized healthcare, Dentist, Teeth extraction[/tags]

Laptop 64 – Ben Heck strikes again

Commodore-64 portablized
Commodore-64 portablized

Is there anyone else out there capable of pulling off the work Ben Heck does? Honestly, I’ve seen a few people do similar mods to portablize game consoles or vintage computers, but no one with the breadth of neat hacks that Ben has done. The latest bit from him is the rejiggering of “Classic” computer the Commodore 64.

While I can’t say I personally would want one, this really is a pretty cool project for folks who have to get their retro on. (via MAKEZine)

[tags]Ben Heck, Retro, Commodore 64, Hardware hacks, MAKEZine[/tags]

World’s Biggesterest laser – pew pew pew

There are some things in the world that never get old. Zombies. Pirates. Ninja. Sharks. Dinosaurs. All these things we can count on to be perpetually cool. Top of the list for me, however, (and you already know this if you hang around the Blahg or me very much) is the topic of lasers. Sure, sure, sure – the previous things are great. But put sharks together with lasers and you far exceed the awesomesauce held by the mere category of sharks. Everyone likes the idea of pirates versus ninja. Suppose, however, you got a pirate and a ninja fighting on top of a laser beam? Only pirates and ninja could pull off a fight carried on completely on a beam of focused light, and they are way more fantastic for doing so. I think, by this point, that you get my point.

So with lasers consuming the position as awesomerest of awesome everything, just what could I want to talk about to impress even the laser fan? Well, how about the most powerful laser EVAR? Could this thing lift a squirrel into orbit? I don’t know. But it is a shit-ton of power:

Scientists working at the National Ignition Facility of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, have built the most powerful laser in the world, capable of simulating the energy force of a hydrogen bomb and the sun itself.

“The system already has produced 25 times more energy than any other laser system,” said NIF Director Ed Moses.

These scientists worked more than a decade to come to this. They generate this power by combining 192 laser beams. And the whole facility is contained within a ten-story building that’s roughly the size of three football fields (American football, for my dear foreign readers). So just how much is 25 time more energy than any other laser, exactly?

NIF’s 192 laser beams, housed in a ten-story building the size of three football fields, travel a long path, about 1,000 feet, from their birth at one of the two master oscillators to the center of the target chamber. As the beams move through NIF’s amplifiers, their energy increases exponentially. From beginning to end, the beams’ total energy grows from one-billionth of a joule (a joule is the energy needed to lift a small apple one meter against the Earth’s gravity) to four million joules, a factor of more than a quadrillion – and it all happens in less than 25 billionths of a second.

Yep – fully focused and powered up, this laser could lift 4 million apples one meter off the ground. Hmmmm. That doesn’t sound nearly as cool as it should. Let’s try again – this laser could lift 1 apple 4 million meters off the ground! Might need more exclamation points, but I think you get the idea. And that estimate of the value of a joule isn’t quite accurate, but it does simplify it and still leave us close enough.

Of course, that assumes the laser wouldn’t instantly vaporize the apple. But maybe if it’s a zombie dinosaur apple, it will survive the trip.

[tags]Lasers, 1.21 Gigawatts!, Apples, Zombies, Ninja, Pirates, Dinosaurs, I’m too fascinated by memes[/tags]

OSSTMM version 3 coming soon?

In a previous life, I was a computer security specialist.  I had a really cool job, and worked with really, really damn cool people (hi Gerald, Doug, Jon, et al).  I read (a tiny fraction of) all the cool security news.  I kept up to date on as many security topics as I could.  I read security books.  I studied a lot of security web sites.  I took training from SANS.  I subscribed to a few security mailing lists, although much of the detail in many vulnerability announcements messages was above my understanding.

But in all that reading, research, study, training, and other learning, one of the coolest things I ever consumed was the OSSTMM project. Rather than try to explain this project, I’ll just snag the introductory text from the project home site:

The Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual (OSSTMM) is a peer-reviewed methodology for performing security tests and metrics. The OSSTMM test cases are divided into five channels (sections) which collectively test: information and data controls, personnel security awareness levels, fraud and social engineering control levels, computer and telecommunications networks, wireless devices, mobile devices, physical security access controls, security processes, and physical locations such as buildings, perimeters, and military bases.

The OSSTMM focuses on the technical details of exactly which items need to be tested, what to do before, during, and after a security test, and how to measure the results. New tests for international best practices, laws, regulations, and ethical concerns are regularly added and updated.

The version I read when I first found this was 2.2.  It has been years since I used it, and I periodically check in for updates on the version 3.0 release.  I haven’t seen an update on the web site, and I’m not a team member/subscriber to the service, so I didn’t expect I would know unless I checked in on my own.  Well tonight, while catching up on email, I get this message from the project:

Continue reading OSSTMM version 3 coming soon?

Cool new type of laser?

Since we haven’t covered any really cool laser news in a while, it’s time to throw out our shark-powered story-hounds (and yes, I recognize the incongruity of that analogy) and see what pops up.

Looks here like there is a story out on a new type of laser. While studying laser generation from a device called a quantum cascade laser, scientists noticed that a secondary laser with some unusual properties was generated.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 22, 2008) — A Princeton-led team of researchers has discovered an entirely new mechanism for making common electronic materials emit laser beams. The finding could lead to lasers that operate more efficiently and at higher temperatures than existing devices, and find applications in environmental monitoring and medical diagnostics.

In particular, this new type of laser apparently requires less energy to produce than a traditional laser. While the story in question makes no mention of strapping these frikkin’ lasers to frikkin’ sharks’ heads, I suspect a lower power draw would come in quite handy in any world take-over attempts based on such a premise. Assuming the scientists in question can figure out how to create this secondary laser without the primary laser still being there, of course.

The new laser phenomenon has some interesting features. For instance, in a conventional laser relying on low momentum electrons, electrons often reabsorb the emitted photons, and this reduces overall efficiency. In the new type of laser, however, this absorption is reduced by 90%, said Franz. This could potentially allow the device to run at lower currents, and also makes it less vulnerable to temperature changes. “It should let us dramatically improve laser performance,” he said.

The device used in the study does not fully attain this level of performance, because the conventional, low-efficiency laser mechanism dominates. To take full advantage of the new discovery, therefore, the conventional mechanism would need to be turned off. The researchers have started to work on methods to achieve this outcome, said Franz.

So work is still underway. And has been for a while, in fact. Word from the brains behind this work is they actually discovered this effect sometime last year, but have been working on perfecting or improving it since then. My current suspicions are if this doesn’t end up in shark-based warfare, it will be part of the coming robot uprising. And I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords (unless the zombies take over first).

[tags]Lasers, Frikkin’ sharks, Throw me a bone, Robots, Quantum something I don’t understand, Science Daily[/tags]

The top 5 cheapest – but unhealthy – fast food choices

The Top Five Cheapest–But Least Healthy–Fast Food Choices [Food]

This is one that highlights one of my weaknesses – unhealthy, not so tasty, but still “wants na0!” food. The fatty content of some of these makes them satisfying despite not being so good. I am talking, of course, of the 5 cheapest but least healthy fast food choices (via LifeHacker).

Dollar “value meals” at fast food restaurants may not be such a bargain when you look at the potential health costs.

Many of these low-cost menu items are packed with fat, salt, cholesterol and processed meat, notes The Cancer Project, a nonprofit cancer prevention organization. The group has produced a list of what it says are the five unhealthiest items sold at the nation’s largest fast food chains.

In particular, note that 2nd worst place winner comes from my diet-killing guilty pleasure palace Taco Bell.

In second-worst place, the 89-cent Taco Bell cheesy double beef burrito, with 460 calories , 20 grams of fat and a whopping 1,620 milligrams of sodium.

As this New York Times article points out, this bad eating can cause real health issues (no surprise there, though, right?). Health issues such as diabetes and heart disease are the walk-away loss from eating this way. I know I, for one, am trying very hard to get my eating under control and get rid of the 40 extra pounds I’ve had for a few years. But it’s hard, especially if you are a stress-eater like I am – I get stressed, I eat. But check out the full (short) list and see how much you are hurting yourself.

[tags]NY Times, LifeHacker, Fast Food, Unhealthy, Cheap, Health issues[/tags]

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