Tag Archives: medical

The Thing About Taxes

I will preface this by saying I am not well-researched in the areas of politics, national financing, or whatever actually goes into this mess, in the United States or elsewhere.

But I think it might be worth mentioning my thoughts on a few things, based on personal experiences, and some things I’ve heard that just… don’t make a lot of sense.

Taxes aren’t inherently bad.

The word “tax” in itself has come to have largely negative connotations–if you’re being “taxed” by something, you’re being weighed down or put upon. We have classic examples of people, like the Sheriff of Nottingham from the Robin Hood stories, who abuse taxes.

In a truly ironic state of affairs, my dad is adamantly against any kind of raise in taxes, but he also works for the state of Minnesota, and part of our taxes are what pay his own wages.

But if taxes are being abused, for things like… oh, say, a giant wall, or a football stadium… then, yeah, I wholeheartedly understand the aversion.

I don’t think anyone is ever entirely sure what taxes are used for, but there’s obviously some mismanagement going on somewhere, and that’s the bad thing. Taxes themselves? They have some truly positive possibilities.

Let’s just, for the sake of imagination, pretend that a perfect world is possible. What should taxes, in a perfect world (and my opinion) be used for?

  • Protecting/conserving the environment
  • Researching and developing important new innovations in energy, transportation, and health (cure for cancer, anyone?)
  • Providing/maintaining a basic standard of health and well-being for everyone
  • Paying first responders, health professionals, and peace-keepers
  • Educating people well
  • Preserving culture by investing in arts, museums, libraries, archives, and community centers
  • Community improvements, like road construction, parks & rec, etc.
  • Providing some kind of safety net and/or rehabilitation programs for those who are  out of work and/or homeless. (This would include retirement, and being out of work due to an injury, veteran benefits, and other things of that nature, in addition to being in a bad situation for other reasons.)

Some people are really put out by the thought of providing for others. Which… I get, to some extent. At the moment, it’s hard to fathom providing for myself, let alone anyone else in the country–but that’s because a lot of things in “the system” are broken. They’re not being used the way they should.

If I had the peace of mind that came with guaranteed good health, the basic ability to learn the things I need to know without being in debt for the foreseeable future, and the reassurance that life as we know it wasn’t on its way to being toasted out of the Earth like a bad virus, I would happily give away a third or more of my income for the rest of my life.

In a perfect world, what would your taxes be used for?

What would you be willing to provide, to make your own life and the lives of others easier?

Taking control of your own medical future

surgery 3-d modeling.jpg

Ever wanted to take more control the next time you go in for surgery?

It’s not something many people think about, but I recently read an article in the Atlantic (link here) where Larry Smarr, a man suffering from Crohn’s disease, brought a full 3-d model of his insides (which he dubbed “Transparent Larry”) with him to the operating table in order to help assist his surgeon for the 5 hour operation to remove a portion of his colon.

How did he do this? Well, he happens to head the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, or Calit2, and has used a supercomputer to monitor his health and peer at his organs. Larry spent years taking precise measurements of every input (food) and output (you guessed it…) from his body, to help discover the initial signs of Crohn’s disease years before it would have been detectable from standard medical procedures.

His doctor who operated on him in 2016, Sonia Ramamoorthy, found the bizarre information supplied by her patient to be not only incredibly useful, but potentially groundbreaking as a possible next step in medical technology. “As a result, he arguably knows more about his own inner workings than anyone else ever has. His goal, as he puts it, is for each of us to become ‘the CEO of our own body.’ […] Inside Transparent Larry, Ramamoorthy got a jump on the surgery a week early. She could see which portion of the colon would have to be removed, where it was located, and how it was shaped. […] The virtual images were so helpful, she said later, that she wishes she could have them every time she operates: ‘It was wonderful. It was like the difference between driving around before and after Google Maps.’”

I was floored to think this type of 3-d data might someday be available not only to someone like Larry, but to the general populace. The current norm in surgical operations are to use a robotic equipment armed with multiple camera arms to help explore a patient’s insides during the procedure. But in Larry’s case, Ramamoorthy was able to shave nearly an hour off the procedure and could consult every facet of his insides over a week in advance to help familiarize the team who would be operating on him.

“Turning a two-dimensional MRI into three dimensions is not that hard, Larry told the audience at his lecture. The remaining challenge is to get more doctors to be like Ramamoorthy, and to get more engineers working in concert with them.”