Tuesday, 24 May 2016

How Many Calories in Prescription Pills?

Just how many calories are there in all those prescription pills?  Mine prescriptions add up to 140 pills per week.

The vigorous workout using the wheelchair joystick doesn't have any noticeable effect.  Should get back to the gym I guess...

...mmmm, delish!

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Sunday, 22 May 2016

Renovations? Beware!!

It was time to replace the windows in our 41 year old house so we shopped around for a contractor.  We chose a popular fellow who has a business here in town and has worked on numerous houses in our extended neigbourhood.  An established professional in good standing -we had dealt with him previously when we needed new siding.

The window replacement included upgrading our heavy wood & glass sliding patio door for something with new bearings that would slide easier.  We took great pains to point out to the fellow that this was my secondary wheelchair exit and that It was imperative that I should be able to get through it without restriction.  He assured me I would.

The old door had a very low threshold allowing me to drive through the door opening with hardly a notice.

The new door was installed and right away I noticed a problem.  There is a 3 inch (7.5cm) high threshold which now has to be mounted with my wheelchair wheels in order to begin the climb over it.  Worse still is the fact that these new light doors are all made from some sort of extruded plastic which seems to delicate to be driven over by a 300 pound chair plus my own weight.

Where my old door's track and mechanism was made of solid wood and a stainless steel runner which was embedded at almost floor level, the new one rises 3 inches above floor level and is framed with flimsy, fragile plastic.

What is worse, I am scraping the sides of my armrests as I try to line up and maneuver through the opening.  Kinda like threading the needle with a floppy thread - lining the two up takes repeat attempts and patience -not what you want if the house were on fire.

So, the explanation is this:  Doors are made with flimsy materials because that is what makes them light and maneuverable, but mostly that's what makes them inexpensive for manufacture. Good for the manufacturer, not so much for the purchaser.  Cheaper materials do not translate into an inexpensive product.  Most major manufacturers produce comparable doors at that price. (not bottom of the line, either!)

The high threshold has something to do with local safety standards.  I cannot see what a three inch threshold protects you from - in fact it is a tripping hazard!  It certainly won't keep out any floods.  Anyone think of some other safety issue the three inch threshold would protect you from?

Yes, the specs show that the doors opening is certainly wide enough for my wheelchair.  But that is before you add the safety stops which prevent the door from falling out as well as the door handle which acts somewhat like a bumper, not allowing the door to open to the maximum.  Together, these reduce the doors width by over three inches, leaving only 1/2 of an inch on either side for me to squeeze through.

So, I've adjusted what I could to maximize the width without having the door fall out of the frame.  I will take my time and try not to break the door frame whenever I attempt to use the door.

I considered buying commercial ramps to scale the height of the threshold.  Some are dense rubber of various 'rise over run' dimensions.  They cost about one hundred dollars each and I would need one on either side.  While these commercial ramps solve the height issue, I still have a 6 1/2 inch (16 1/2 cm) transition gap between the front of the threshold trim and the rear of the threshold trim.  I cannot simply drive across this divide as the plastic is too fragile and would no doubt shatter.  The aluminum runner on which the door glides is also of thin gauge metal and would quickly become bent and misshapen after only a few passes. A helpful neighbour built a small metal ramp which I can lay down to scale the transition.  It has a wooden crosspiece which lies in the central plastic channel thereby distributing the weight to protect the sides and bottom.

I am grateful for this ramp but it still has to be lined up carefully so that when dropped in, the cross brace enters the plastic channel to distribute the weight evenly.   While I am flexible enough to do this myself, it may take several attempts to get it in properly.  I then carefully 'thread' my way through hoping not to damage my chair or the door jamb. Once on the other side, I have to pick the ramp up in order to close the door behind me, so as to keep the insects out. 

Not as quick as before when I could just open the door and drive on through with ease.  But, it is what it is....

Even when you ask the right questions and get assurances, things may not work out as you expect!

The Threshold of the new sliding patio doors heading out to my backyard deck.  This is my secondary exit from the house in case of a fire.  The threshold is about 3 inches high and the width of the door, door frame and trim, all which have to be traversed is about 6.5 inches.

The New threshold is made of extruded plastic and an aluminum runner on which the door rolls or glides.  Again the overall height is about 3 inches while the width of the opening is about 6 inches.
It consists of (1.) the door frame base, (2) the plastic wall (2 pieces) which sandwich (3.) the aluminum runner on which the door rolls or glides.  (4.) is the channel through which the front face of the door runs through which I fill with the ramp's cross brace to reinforce against crushing. (5.) is the outside plastic trim behind which the door face runs as it slides open or closed.  (6.) is the screen door which runs on its own, lower track.

Here is the metal ramp which my neighbour constructed for me.  This ramp is standing on end.

Here is the reverse side of the ramp showing (1.) the cross brace which drops into the slot through which the door runs through.  Without it the plastic may twist or be crushed.  (2.) are angled braces which distribute the weight of my wheelchair so that the metal ramp doesn't buckle or bend.  The angle is approximate and made to accommodate the transition between the height of my living room floor and that of the exterior deck.

A photo of the ramp in place.  While it works reasonably well, I do have to make sure the cross brace underneath fills the plastic slot in the threshold perfectly so as not to crush the structure.  It does 'toggle' a bit (rock back and forth) as I drive over but not really a problem if prepared for it.  I do have to remove the ramp once through so as to keep bugs out.  While I can bend down and place/remove the ramp, it is a bit of an effort and annoyance compared to just driving straight through as I used to.

Here is the handle (another handle on back) and the door frame, which, along with the safety stops (not shown) which reduce the actual size of the door opening by about 3 inches (7 centemeters).  If I divided the 3 inches in half, I would have an inch and a half per side and adding the half inch clearance per side I currently have, I would have almost two inches per side to drive through with ease.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Planned Obsolescence and Disposable Products in Today’s ‘Feel Good’ “Green” Society

Planned Obsolescence and Disposable Products in Today’s ‘Feel Good’ “Green” Society
“Cheap” versus “Inexpensive”

This post is somewhat off-topic however my ongoing problems with my Permobil M300 power wheelchair had me thinking about quality or perhaps today, the lack of quality in the products we purchase and use daily.

I was delighted to find that Motion Specialties, my current wheelchair repair company had hired a repairman from the now defunct Shoppers Home Healthcare.  My experience with Shoppers was a total nightmare, however their one and only bright spot was that they had an excellent field service technician.  One of my many troubles with Shoppers was the difficulty in getting Shoppers to dispatch any Field Service Technician to repair my wheelchair.  I know he will be a great asset to Motion Specialties.

When this technician arrived at my door, we began to discuss the lack of quality of my wheelchair and in a wider scope, the lack of quality in many of the products and commodities sold to the consumer in today’s marketplace.

I was disappointed to learn that the wheelchair motors are not refurbished and the electronic modules are not repaired but that they are thrown into a bin and either disposed of, or they are crudely recycled for metals and such.  It seems like such a waste of resources and energy.

As I mentioned in a previous post, an electronic module controlling my wheelchair or that found in any television, may have stopped working because of a defective resistor or capacitor.  In bulk it may cost the manufacturer one-thousandth of a penny to purchase, yet when damage, it is not repaired but replaced with a new module is sold to you usually at hundreds of dollars.

It is no longer financially prudent to hire an electronics technician to diagnose and repair these items.  It is cheaper to trash the item and sell the client an entirely new unit.  If not recycled properly, the rare heavy metals often used in these components may be lost.

I asked, “Why aren’t wheelchairs made from military or medical grade components?”  It is not cost effective for the wheelchair company.  It seems the manufacturer need the chair’s components to break down so they can sell you replacement parts.  The bottom line is that it is more profitable.
The technician went on to explain that when a new wheelchair is developed, their financial “bean counters” scrutinize the chair from top to bottom asking “how much did this screw cost?”  “Can we replace it with something cheaper?”   And so it goes…

And make no mistake: “Cheaper” does not mean “Less Expensive”.  Cost reduction translates into an extra bonus for the CEO and increased profits for the company shareholders.

 I think about the household products I have bought, used and had to replace after only a year or two.
I am on my third Cuisinart coffee maker.  Suddenly one day, it just stops working with no obvious reason.  So I purchase another (still a good make according to reviews) and cross my fingers.  I could purchase another brand but in this world it is just a game of ‘musical appliances’.  They are all made to fail after a certain period of time.  If I decide to try another brand, someone who has that broken ‘other brand ‘now tries mine old brand.   And so it goes; by continuously having to buy replacement appliances, you are keeping the appliance maker in business.  If your toast lasted thirty years, toaster sales would grind to a halt.

Plastic is a fine product but it is used in the wrong places perhaps ninety percent of the time.  My toaster's plastic sides are warped and discoloured.  I have encountered worn plastic gears and broken plastic hinges.  But plastic is inexpensive to the manufacturer and cheap so it will break requiring the purchase of a replacement.

My RCA television has failed for the second time.  First time it was a module which cost over $150 to replace.  Now the module is no longer available as my TV is considered old technology.  

I have an issue with the cordless tools currently on the market.  It is wonderful not to be tethered to a wall with an electrical cord.  But anyone who buys a cordless tool must realize that the batteries do not last forever.  After a period of time, they will no longer hold a charge and will have to be replaced.  The problem is that (a) you find the replacement battery costs more than the appliance which requires it, or (b) the battery is no longer made for that particular model of appliance or tool.

My wife has a Shark brand floor sweeper and the replacement battery cost more than a new Shark sweeper.  A Sears department store salesman gave me his sales pitch stating that “This cordless drill is the last one you will ever need…it will last a lifetime!”  Well, yes… it just might, but I found out that they no longer manufacture the rechargeable battery after 15 years.  I found the model in the U.S. and purchased it, but even though it is for the same model, the U.S. battery has different internal wiring.  Different standards for different countries – it won’t work.  So now it is a useless piece of junk which I have to dispose of.

One manufacturer is currently advertising some 50 tools that can be powered by one battery.  All I see are fifty useless tools when the company suspends manufacture of the battery model.  And you know they eventually will.

The bottom line is this: If you have rechargeable batteries, they will eventually fail and  have to be replaced.  Will the manufacturer still be making the battery?....and will the replacement be reasonably priced?

So, do you bring your watch in to be repaired?  Do you take your shoes to a cobbler to be re-soled?  No, it doesn’t make sense to pay for the high cost of repairs (if even available) unless you have designer shoes or a Rolex watch.  Like the rest of us, you throw them out and buy another.

Society prides itself on extolling the virtues of going green.  Governments may mandate it.  A green disposal fee may be added to the cost at time of purchase and the local dump (sorry, environmental refuse and recycling center) may charge again for a disposal fee.

We all get a fuzzy warm feeling all over because we are “green”,  however, I wonder how many batteries, appliances, shoes, watches, batteries, televisions, plastic bags and bottles, cell phones, and on and on –get thrown away and not properly recycled.

In past years I’ve read stories of recycling centers being overwhelmed with items and finally sending them to the landfill without processing.  Plastic items have been reclaimed and processed yet there was no market for the item.  Companies preferred using virgin plastic bought from suppliers.  

Yet we all feel so very proud during 'Earth Hour' when we turn off our lights and text of BFFs in darkened bliss...

Still further aside: Currently our Province of Ontario is offering large incentives or rebates on those who purchase electric vehicles.  Just this week they announced plans to phase out natural gas, a relatively clean energy source with by-products of water vapour and carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas which is utilized by growing vegetation) to be replace with “clean” electrical heating.  However, this brainless group of ‘feel good greenies’ has not explained how this electrical energy is going to be generated. 

The government and citizens are generally opposed to expansion of our nuclear power plants.  Coal fired power plants were closed years ago.  Natural gas plants make no sense if you phase out natural gas for the general population citing green concerns.  All but one major river has already been dammed in this Provence –there are no more.  Niagara falls perhaps can produce a bit more at the risk of affecting the spectacle and tourism.  Do you claim agricultural farm land and replace crops with fields of solar cells and wind turbines?  (as the old joke goes, “who needs farms when we have supermarkets?”)  Cold fusion has not yet been accomplished.  Just how will we make this power?  It appears that only the brain dead run for political office…

It is about the money…It is ALWAYS about the money!

Unbridled Capitalism is just as bad as Communism...
...it is just the flip side of the same coin!

Update: June 25th,2016
It was just over a month ago that I posted this blog about planned obsolescence, where companies make products with purposely built in weaknesses, knowing they will fail in an approximate per-determined span of time.  That time period is always slightly past the length of warranty offered by the manufacturer.  I think we have all experienced this 'true-ism' at one time or another.

Someplace in the Cuisinart factory, engineers are doing a 'high-five' as my 3rd Cuisinart coffee maker (same model) has joined its predecessors and died.  Of course it comes with a three year warranty and my machine died yesterday, just short of the forth year.

So today we bought our fourth, thereby doing our part to keep the Canadian economy running along.  Why do we keep buying the same brand and model you ask?  Well, the independent reviews have this make and model always rated near the top in quality.  Also, most manufacturers, in the same price range at least, offer the same warranty.  Changing brand loyalty is like playing musical chairs - you simply give your money to a different manufacturer that will also self destruct in that same pre-planned time period.

Our fourth coffee maker;  each previous one failed right after the warranty expired!

So, what has this got to do with wheelchairs?  Same strategy!  The chair's components are manufactured to fail after a certain length of time or mileage so that additional parts and/or labour can be charged and shareholder profits extended.  I have replaced just about every component on my wheelchair and everything has failed after the one year warranty expired!

As for my coffee maker, it can't be repaired, at least not at a reasonable price so out it goes for the city waste pickup.  How much of it is actually recycled or reused is beyond me but as you can tell, life has left me cynical and I believe most will go to the landfill to be driven into the ground by a bulldozer.

So again, on 'Earth Day' we turn off our lights, turn on our iPhones and tweet each other about how 'Green' we've become!
  What a sad little planet we've become...

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Saturday, 7 May 2016

Loblaw having acquired Shoppers Drug Mart now wishes to dispense medical marijuana

Part I: Loblaw food store chain acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart with apparent intent to drop Shoppers Home Healthcare division altogether –leaving clients stranded.

Part II: (further below) Loblaw expresses desire to sell Medical Marijuana through its Shoppers Drug Store/Loblaw pharmacies.

Part I

When you buy another company, you also buy any “baggage” that company had accumulated during its years of operation.  You would think that when one company purchases another, the onus is on the purchaser to make sure the seller fulfills any obligations, resolves any problems, correct any errors and address any concerns or misgivings that may now reflect badly on the acquiring company.

You lay down with dogs, you may get some fleas…

In a March 28th, 2014 Globe and Mail[i] article, Loblaw’ CEO Galen Weston announced that the planned purchase of Shoppers Drug Mart by Loblaw Supermarket chain, first announced July 15th 2013[ii], has been finalized.  The announced cost of the transaction was $12.4 billion in cash and stocks.

Also, when you buy a company, you acquire all of its subsidiaries (unless specifically excluded from the deal) as was the case with the above transaction.  Shoppers Drug Mart brought along Shoppers Home Healthcare as part of the package deal.

However, it has become apparent that Loblaw wanted Shoppers only for their pharmaceuticals and had no interest in the greater scope of their Shoppers Home Healthcare division which, in general, supplied devices and aids to physically challenged clients. (eg. wheelchairs, oxygen supplies, walkers, etc.)

Loblaw must have researched Shoppers thoroughly prior to the purchase and no doubt had extensive knowledge of the extraordinarily poor performance of the Home Healthcare branch of their business[iii],[iv],[v],[vi].  I suppose they had planned from the start to divest themselves of the Home Healthcare operation.  Rather than improve the deplorable “service” that Shoppers Home Healthcare provided, they let the operation languish and their clients suffer in frustration.

If I was purchasing a company, I would demand that all aspects of its operation were brought up to acceptable standards before making the purchase.   If not, I would make those changes immediately on purchase so as not to reflect badly on my own company.

With Loblaw’s first announcement of its intent to purchase Shoppers Drug Mart (July 15th, 2013), to when the transaction was finalized (March, 28th, 2014) to when Shoppers Drug Mart (now owned by Loblaw) was divesting itself of the Shoppers Home Healthcare division of its operation (March 22nd, 2016)[vii], a full two years had elapsed –enough time for Loblaw to demand Shoppers Home Healthcare get its act together or for Loblaw to do it themselves after the acquisition.

Obviously Loblaw had plans to drop the Shoppers Home Healthcare division altogether so they expended no finances or energy in bringing the “service” up to standards or doing right by Shoppers’ clients.

Shame on both Shoppers and Loblaw if the intent was always to divest itself of the Shoppers Home Healthcare division.  They continued to allow poor service to be offered and failed to give their clients a sufficient ‘heads up’ to locate alternate healthcare service providers.

However, it’s always about the money, isn’t it….always!

Part II:

This week Loblaw’s CEO Galen Weston announced its intent to sell medical marijuana through its Loblaw/Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies once legalized[viii],[ix].  He was quick to point out that only ‘medical’ not ‘recreational’ drug would be stocked.  In that articleMr. Weston told shareholders that Loblaw increasingly is focused on bolstering its healthy (sic) care goods and services.” (Obviously those goods and services did not include wheelchair and other disability aids sales and services)

Ontario’s liquor control board’s retail outlet, the LCBO stores were suggested as a retailer for marijuana however is seems that the public prefers that alcohol highs and marijuana highs be sold in different locations.  I suppose that ‘highbrow executives’ don’t want to be seen purchasing their single-malt scotch in the same store where ‘dudes’ buy their doobies!  But I digress…

My concern is that Loblaw/Shoppers Drug Store pharmacies may do as poor a job of dispensing ‘medical marijuana’ as it did with providing service through Shoppers Home Healthcare.  Having had such a poor experience with Shoppers Home Healthcare, I have no intention of giving Shoppers, and now Loblaw/Shoppers any of my business.  I’m sure many others who felt abused by Shoppers Home Healthcare feel the same way I do.

Shoppers Home Healthcare under Shoppers parent company had the sole contract for sales and repairs on articulated wheelchairs (those with special features such as tilt and elevating mechanisms).  I truly hope there will not be a monopoly on the sales of medical marijuana.  If I were ever to decide to use it to relieve my pain and stiffness, I hope that Loblaw/Shoppers would be my only source for the medicine.

Lack of competition creates laziness, complacency and stagnation!

I am still curious as to how the entire system is intended to work once marijuana sales and usage is legalized in Ontario, and Canada as a whole.  Pharmacies will dispense medically prescribed marijuana.  Pot shops have already sprung up selling a variety of marijuana products to the general public intended for recreational use.  Finally, will you be able to grow your own as you can brew your own beer or bottle your own wine?  It seems that you may be able to do so for personal use[x], at least ‘medical’ marijuana users, otherwise you may be a tax evader.  So why would you go to a pharmacy if  you can grow your own unless you wish to pay the price and the tax for a controlled dosage of THC?

To read of my own frustrations with Shoppers Home Healthcare and their total lack of anything that remotely resembles service, click HERE to read my post.