Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Things They Should Invent: robocalls that disconnect automatically when they hear a voicemail beep

I hate it when spam robocalls leave me a message on my voicemail, because then I have to log into my voicemail and delete the message so my phone won't keep telling me I have a message waiting. This most often happens with those "To lower your rates, press 1" robocalls, so leaving a message doesn't even help them with their marketing because they need a real person to press 1 in real time. And, because they annoy me so much, these are the calls that I'm most motivated to report do the Do Not Call List people.

Solution: technology that would allow robocallers to recognize the voicemail "leave a message" beep and hang up when they hear it. That way the spammers aren't wasting their time and resources, people aren't getting pissed off, and people are less likely to report them for DNC list violations. Win-win!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Comedy guilt

This takes a lot of talent:

He's doing silent physical comedy all alone, without anyone to play off or react to. He's doing it in front of a live studio audience without corpsing. There's fire involved, and a live animal on stage with him.

But it doesn't make me laugh. Physical comedy very rarely does it for me, even though it takes a lot of skill, athleticism, choreography, timing, and rehearsal. In this particular case, rehearsing probably meant they had to light the set on fire spray foam about, and clean up multiple times. To say nothing of the work involved in writing the whole thing.

But it still doesn't make me laugh, and I feel really guilty about that.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My dreams are back!

For my whole life, I've gotten particularly vivid, interesting, and emotionally satisfying dreams right before I wake up naturally. That's why it's so important to me to sleep to completion at least once a week. My typical pattern is I sleep until early morning, wake up to pee, and, if I don't have to get up early that day, go back to bed for dream time. The dreams come at their best around 8-10 a.m., regardless of what time I went to bed.

But this pattern got disrupted when my GERD asserted itself this past summer. During the initial phase when I couldn't eat, I was going to bed early from fatigue and weakness and waking up early from hunger. After I was diagnosed, my diagnosis kept haunting my dreams (a recurring character was a demon with my face and a gremlin's body who had been sentenced to a hell where she was forced to eat the exact same quantity of the exact same dry, tasteless food every day, regardless of how hungry she was). The changes to my bedtime routine I made to trick myself into drinking less made me go to bed early, which made me wake up early, which made me miss peak dreaming time.

But the past few nights, I've naturally stayed up late, and naturally slept later, and finally started having dreams like I'm used to. Vivid, interesting, plot-filled, satisfying dreams that I'm physically capable of returning to after waking up if I roll back over and close my eyes again.

Some might say that this isn't a good thing, that it was better when I was naturally waking up earlier without any particular incentive to go back to sleep. But my dream time is an important part of myself that I'd thought I'd lost forever, so I'm very glad to have it back!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What if patients were allowed to deprioritize longevity?

They recently changed breast cancer screening guidelines, reducing screening in areas where it hasn't been proven to reduce mortality.

What bugs me about this is they're only looking at mortality. The reason why I'd be particularly concerned about breast cancer as compared with other cancers is I don't want to lose my breasts. I like my breasts and I want to keep them. If I'm going to be moved to take any particular measures to avoid breast cancer, it's going to be because I want to keep my breasts, not to avoid dying. However, we don't have the information to make that decision. They didn't look at whether early detection reduces the need for mastectomies, or, for that matter, chemotherapy. (I'd also very much like to keep my hair and continue my 17-year non-vomiting record.)

This is similar to my attitude towards GERD. I've been thinking about it pretty much non-stop for the past three months, and I've concluded that I'd very much prefer being able to eat exactly what I want for 100% of my life, even if it means my life is much shorter. I'd rather die at 50 having eaten exactly what I want every single day than live to 100 without eating anything that makes me happy. (Unfortunately, this isn't quite an option, because the disease manifests itself as difficulty eating. If I get esophageal erosion or Barrett's esophagus or esophageal cancer, I will be physically incapable of eating pleasurably.) However, the general medical approach assumes that dietary restrictions are a perfectly reasonable first step in preventing what might ultimately develop into esophageal cancer, and I can't find any sign that medical science is even thinking about working to eliminate the need for dietary restrictions.

As a patient, I'd really like to have the option of choosing to have my medical care not focus on keeping me from dying, and instead prioritize getting the most out of whatever time I do have. (And I want to be able to define "getting the most out of" for myself, so that it includes such fripperies as pleasure and vanity.) This would require not only the consent and cooperation of my medical team, but also the consent and cooperation of medical science. My doctor can't change my breast cancer screening protocol to maximize my likelihood of being able to keep my breasts unless medical science does research into whether screening helps avoid mastectomies, not just prevent death.

At this point, some people reading this are probably thinking "But...I want to avoid death!" And I know that with breast cancer awareness specifically, some people are really bothered by campaigns that focus on the fact that breasts are awesome rather than the fact that cancer can be fatal. So I'm not saying that patients shouldn't be able to prioritize survival and longevity. I'm just saying that we should have a choice. If you want to live to 100 no matter what, medicine should help you. If I don't have a problem with dying younger because it will spare me Alzheimer's, medicine should help me get what I want out of life.

From a disgustingly pragmatic point of view, allowing patients to deprioritize longevity might also save the health system money. Why pour resources into extending the lives of people who don't care if their lives are extended? (You might say "To keep them from dying of something complicated and expensive," but who's to say they won't die of something complicated and expensive decades later anyway? (Someone really should do research on that.)) There's the potential to save a few patient-decades of care with the full consent of the patients, and actually make them happier while doing so.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Things They Should Invent: minimum Service Canada staffing levels proportionate to the number of unemployed Canadians

Recently in the news: there are delays in Employment Insurance because the government has cut EI processing jobs.

That seems rather backwards, doesn't it? Demand is up, so you cut back your workforce? I can't imagine that decision being made anywhere in the private sector. (Of course, I also couldn't imagine it being made in the public sector.) If Service Canada increased the number of EI workers during times of high unemployment, they would not only be addressing the increased demand, they'd be marginally reducing demand (and the unemployment rate) by hiring unemployed people. Automatic job creation!

Therefore, I propose they make a policy that the number of EI workers has to be at least X% of the number of people on the unemployment rolls.

At this point, you're wondering why I want them to make a policy rather than just being smart and hiring more people. The reason for making a whole policy is to prevent the same problem from reoccurring in the future. The government could spin it beautifully as a sustainable policy to better serve Canadians and put people back to work - alluding to the fact that private sector totally hires people when demand goes up, to play to certain segments of their base. Once it's all written down and codified, then they'll have to jump through hoops to lay off EI workers during times of high unemployment rather than the current situation of having to jump through hoops to hire more EI workers during times of belt-tightening.

You're probably also wondering why I put the wiggle-words "at least" in there. That's to give Service Canada reasonable leeway in its staffing. If they have some people who are nearing retirement, this will allow them to hire replacements (and get them trained and reasonably experienced) before the retirees leave with all their corporate memory. This also prevents them from necessarily having to lay off workers at the slightest fluctuation of the unemployment rate.

At this point, you're probably wondering "But what if improved technology results in fewer workers needed per unemployed person? Then they'll be stuck with all these extra workers." That could be addressed with a clause requiring an automatic review of the prescribed minimum threshold whenever existing workers find themselves with a certain amount of downtime.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Causes I would like to get involved in

1. Sufficient and reliable funding for all medical research

Many charity fundraisers are raising money for research into various diseases. Our first thought when we hear this is that it's a good cause. But why is such vital medical research dependent on charity? There should be a better way to make sure that all medical research gets the funding it needs without having to resort to begging or be dependent on the kindness of strangers.

2. Replace property tax with income tax

As I've blogged about before, property tax is silly because it does not directly reflect ability to pay. I know that municipalities use it because that's what the law limits them to, but I think it would serve us all far better if property tax were eliminated and replaced with an income tax at the municipal level.

However, I don't know how to make either of these things happen. Does anyone know of any organizations that are already working on these issues?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Garbage chute poll

Please answer in the comments: which side of the building is your garbage chute on? I welcome multiple answers if you can remember from previous buildings you've lived in as well.

This question came up when I was taking out the garbage today and started pondering why the garbage chute is always on the east side. And I came up with a really good explanation too: the prevailing winds are from the west, so having the chute on the east reduces the incidence of that annoying phenomenon where the wind whistles up the garbage chute.

Then I realized that I don't actually know if the chute is always on the east. I've only lived in two buildings with garbage chutes, both of which had a north-south main hallway. In my old building, the service/freight driveway that garbage trucks would have to use was on the east side of the building (and could not have been positioned any other way. In my current building, it's actually on the west side and there's a bit of a convoluted system to get the garbage from the garbage room to the truck area.

So I'm trying to figure out whether I've spotted a pattern or this is just a coincidence. Please contribute your data points.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Is it easier to start a business in a small town?

In one episode of Corner Gas, Brent mentions that he runs the only gas station for 40 km. In another episode, he mentions that he's started renting out movies because no one else in town does. When Lacey is renovating the Ruby, the townsfolk are at loose ends because there's nowhere to get a good cup of coffee. Watching this, it occurred to me that it might be easier to run a business in a very small community, because you'd be the only game in town.

This made me think of a book I'd read a while back, Big Sort. One of the points made in Big Sort was that, as a general demographic trend, people who live in less urban areas tend to prioritize self-sufficiency. The book didn't comment on entrepreneurship, but in life in general I have observed a correlation between valuing self-sufficiency and valuing entrepreneurship. In the more extreme cases, this manifests itself as thinking that applying for jobs and waiting for someone to hire you is insufficiently diligent, and what you should really be doing is starting your own business and creating your own job.

So I wonder if this entrepreneurship-├╝ber-alles attitude correlates with more rural environments, and, if so, if entrepreneurship looks more feasible to them just because the small businesses with which they're familiar are the only game in town, rather than one of three on the same block?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wholesale and retail

Wholesalers sell products at lower prices and in larger quantities to retailers, who sell them at higher prices and in smaller quantities to customers. Customers usually can't buy wholesale - you have to be a business to do so.

I wonder how this system came about? Because if you think about it, it's really weird and arbitrary. If such a system didn't exist, could you imagine being the first person to invent it? "Okay, you can buy my widgets at very low prices, but you have to buy at least a thousand of them, and you can only do so if you have a store set up to sell them to other people." That would never work! But somehow it has worked, and it adds this whole extra layer to the economy.

And why do you have to be a business to buy wholesale anyway? If an individual wants to buy a whole pallet of toilet paper, why on earth would a wholesaler care?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Things They Should Invent: Movember buy-out

Movember is a fundraiser where people spend the month of November growing a mustache, to raise funds for prostate cancer research.

The problem, of course, is that mustaches are yucky. I wouldn't want to grow, kiss, touch, or look at mustaches. And I'm sure I'm on the only person in the world who feels this way.

But it looks really assholic to not participate in a charity fundraiser - or, worse, to try to convince someone else not to participate in a charity fundraiser - on purely aesthetic grounds, no matter how well-founded they are.

Solution: you can contribute money to a Movember participant earmarked as anti-mustache funds. If any participant's anti-mustache funds exceed his pro-mustache funds, he gets to shave.

For example, suppose your husband is participating in Movember and has raised $100 for growing a mustache. You find mustaches repulsive and don't much fancy the idea of going a whole month without enjoying the benefits of his mouth. So if you contribute $101 in anti-mustache money, he'll shave. Of course, if someone else donates more pro-mustache money to him, you'll have to donate even more anti-mustache money.

At first glance, paying to shave mustaches seems contrary to the spirit of Movember, but it would actually bolster its missions of raising money and awareness. Since the anti-mustache money would go to the same charity as the pro-mustache money, this introduces the potential to double the amount of money raised! And giving anyone the ability to eliminate people's ugly facial hair will certainly do way more for awareness than simply having some people walking around with ugly facial hair. (Compare: "Dude, what's with the cheesy mustache?" "I'm raising money for prostate cancer research." vs. "Dude, what's with the cheesy mustache?" "If you donate $X to prostate cancer research, I'll shave it!")

How many complaints about our health system are due to poor communication?

A while back there was a story in the news about a lady who fell in a hospital and was told to call an ambulance.

TorontoEmerg points out that paramedics would have the equipment to move a fall patient without damaging the spine.

So it sounds like the real problem is that they didn't explain, or didn't successfully explain, to the lady why they needed an ambulance.

I've only had one ER visit in my life, for a broken bone when I was a kid. I didn't understand what was going on, and because of that I thought they weren't going to fix me, at all, ever. Even though I've learned far more about diagnosis and triage in the intervening years and know intellectually that their actions were appropriate, I still can't describe it in detail because it makes me flash back to that feeling of terror, and to this day I find anything having to do with bones absolutely squicky.

Even in less serious situations, lack of communication can be upsetting. I once asked my doctor if I could be vaccinated against chicken pox. She ordered tests to make sure I didn't already carry the antibody, then when they'd confirmed that her office called me to schedule an appointment to be vaccinated. I showed up at the appointment, and the doctor asked me "Where's the vaccine?" I looked at her, she looked at me, I looked at her, she looked at me... It turned out she was supposed to give me a prescription for the vaccine (she hadn't) which I was then to get filled at the pharmacy and bring back to her so she could inject me. I felt awkward and embarrassed, and it caused a bit of a kerfuffle with the office scheduling because she had to take the next patient while I filled the prescription and then fit me back in for my injection, and I had to pressure the pharmacy to fill the prescription as quickly as possible because they were waiting for me upstairs at the doctor's office.

All this gets me thinking: how many of people's complaints about the medical system are due to flawed communication? So much is obvious and everyday to medical professionals but completely new and rather scary to patients. How many complaints would be averted if medical professionals were able to successfully explain processes and reasoning and unknowns and expectations to patients?

Things Google Should Invent: reverse sort by date

Currently, you can sort your Google search results by date, which puts the most recent results first. But the only way to see the very oldest results is to keep clicking the last of the available pages until you reach the end of the results, which can be a wee bit time-consuming if there are millions of them.

Google has the information, the technology exists (most things that have a sort by date function let you choose the order), why not give us the option for those cases where we need it?

Wherein I solve a mystery from half a lifetime ago

Despite the bullies I faced in middle school, I managed to develop a small group of friends. In retrospect, it was a rather rudimentary definition of friendship, but I had people to do school projects with and talk on the phone with and invite along if I wanted to go to a movie.

We weren't much in touch over the summer between Grade 8 and Grade 9 (which was normal - my family tended to go for long vacations), but then when high school started, instead of picking up where we'd left off as usual, they simply stopped being friends with me. They didn't fill me in on plans and they ignored me if I was there. They seemed to have rather quickly made friends with some girls from the other elementary schools, and some of those girls were mean to me - stealing my things, laughing at me as though I'd violated some rule I didn't know about. My friends had also become, for lack of a better word, coarser. They'd taken up smoking and didn't appear to have any objection to drinking or drugs, they swore more, they listened to ruder music, and they seemed to be interested in sex. And, on top of it all, they seemed kind of judgmental of me for not automatically having gone through the exact same changes. (Yes, I would later take up some of these habits, but I was 13 at the time of this story and not ready yet.) It didn't make any sense to me, and I didn't understand what had happened.

The end result was I spent the next two years literally friendless. I had no one to do projects with, no one to talk on the phone with, no one to go to the movies with. And I had no idea what had happened or why, which kind of fucked up my ability to develop other friendships.

But I was recently poking around on facebook, and, 17 years after the fact, discovered what had happened: the summer between Grade 8 and Grade 9, they joined cadets.

That's where they met the girls from the other elementary school who were mean to me. That's where they took up smoking and other coarse habits. And that's where they developed a whole other life that didn't include me, or even include treating me with basic civility once we were in classes together again.

Their decision not to ask me to join cadets along with them was completely reasonable and correct. I would not have done well in that context and we all knew it. But the irony is that some very vocal adults in my life kept encouraging me to join cadets, and later reserves, saying it would be good for me. As though there was something deficient in my character that would be remedied by sending me into a context where I had every reason to believe I would be bullied even more, among other problems. And all this time, it ended up being the thing that turned my perfectly nice, slightly dorky middle-school friends into coarse, unkind people that most adults certainly wouldn't want their kids to be, or to associate with.

Gillette Fusion ProGlide

I recently received a sample of the Gillette Fusion ProGlide razor. This razor is intended for men to use on their faces, but I'm a woman and I used it on my legs and armpits.

I discovered that, just like it says on the tin, you can sort of glide it lightly over your skin. I can use a lighter touch than my usual Schick Quattro. However, the first couple of uses I got a bit of razor burn on my legs, which hasn't happened to me in ages. Note that I use body wash for lather when shaving my legs. The manufacturer would probably suggest using their own proprietary shaving cream or gel, but I look at products in terms of how they fit into my existing routine, not what kind of new routine they ask me to create.

I find the size and shape of the handle less ergonomically suitable to leg shaving than my Schick Quattro (which makes sense, because the ProGlide isn't intended for leg shaving and the Quattro is).

The razor has a little extra blade on the back, which they call a "precision trimmer". I find it useful for that little bit between the Achilles tendon and the sticky-outy ankle bone, which I always miss when shaving.

In my winter routine of shaving every other day, I notice that I have less stubble 24 hours after shaving compared with my usual razor, but about the same amount 48 hours after. So it doesn't make me need to shave less frequently, but it keeps me presentable a bit longer.

I also noticed, after less than a month's use, the green moisturizer strip seems to be flaking off. I don't usually have that happen with women's razors, and I've never had it happen so quickly.

Overall, it's not for me. (Which I knew going in - it's for men's faces, not women's legs.) It does glide like they say it does, but it doesn't have the comfort and longevity of my existing razor. It's good enough that I'll use it until it doesn't shave me well enough any more, but I won't be buying more blades for it.

Analogy for Greece

I've been reading a lot about the situation in Greece, and one thing that keeps popping up is that, depending on how it's framed, either there are an awful lot of people who aren't paying their taxes, or the government is particularly ineffective at tax collection. In any case, the salient point is that taxes that, by law, should be ending up in government coffers, aren't.

The more I think about this, the more that it seems that "austerity" isn't going to solve this problem. Here's an analogy for why:

Suppose you own a store. It's the only store in the area and it sells practically everything a person might want.

Unfortunately, your store has a severe shoplifting problem. Entirely too much merchandise is walking out the door without being paid for.

Downsizing employees isn't going to stop the shoplifting. You'll have fewer people to look out for shoplifters, plus a bunch of people with insider knowledge of your store who are suddenly disgruntled against you and lacking money to pay for their purchases.

Raising prices isn't going to stop the shoplifting. If your merchandise is less affordable (or even just perceived to be unfairly priced), that's certainly not going to stop existing shoplifters from shoplifting, and might incite more people to start shoplifting because they either can't afford your new prices or don't feel it's fair to pay your new prices.

Cutting back on the range or quality of your products isn't going to stop the shoplifting. People who are going to shoplift are going to shoplift what you have. Particularly discerning customers with the means to do so may opt to travel to a larger centre to buy the product that you no longer stock, or to special-order them, which means that the customers who are best positioned to provide you with revenue will have fewer opportunities to do so.

It's true that any of these measures might fix your balance sheet temporarily, for the next quarter or so, but none of them are going to solve the real problem and they may well actually make it worse. To solve the actual problem, you need to either incentivize your customers to pay for their purchases, or make it more difficult for them to walk out without paying. Similarly, Greece needs to either convince its people to pay their taxes, or make tax evasion more difficult.

Things that took a year to make it into the news

1. G20 jail photos raise alarm bells for police chair.

Why were these alarm bells not raised day of? Reports of jail conditions were making it into my twitter feed while it was still going on, and I'm not even particularly connected.

2. Getting a buried Eglinton Crosstown line across the Don River would be difficult and expensive.

Why did it take them a year to notice this? The Don River has always been there!

What if quality of housing counted towards section 37 community benefits?

I was looking at City of Toronto documents for a proposed development, and I was surprised to see that the developer had to contribute a certain amount of money as "community benefits" to various projects in the area. Turns out this is set out in section 37 of Ontario's Planning Act. In basic terms, it means that if developers want more height or density than normally permitted, they have to give something back to the community in exchange. In the documents I was looking at, they suggested contributing money to parks or streetscape projects.

But what if developers could contribute their community benefits through quality of housing?

For example, what if they provided more family-sized suites, or lower prices, or more energy-efficient housing, or some combination of the above? What if they provided some of the suites for use as public housing? What if they reserved a certain number (or even all!) the suites for purchase by owners rather than investors or agents who are just going to buy and flip or rent them out for profit?

As an area resident, I find it beneficial to increase the supply of suites that meet my needs, even if I'm not immediately in the market for moving. If the supply increases, that might drive down prices, thus reducing my rent increase as well as making it easier to buy.

There would need to be measures to make sure that they don't introduce crappy housing as a baseline, upgrade it to normal housing, and call it a community benefit. There also need to be measures to make sure that this better-quality or better-value housing benefits actual residents, rather than getting snapped up by investors.

Off the top of my head, perhaps quality of housing could be measured relative to the rest of the neighbourhood. If it's basically the same as the rest of the neighbourhood, you get fewer points than if you're introducing the first building in the neighbourhood to have central air conditioning. This is analogous to how the City might try to encourage grocery stores to move into neighbourhoods that are food deserts, but wouldn't take any particular measures to encourage grocery stores to move into neighbourhoods that already have a couple of grocery stores.

To keep investors and flippers from yoinking better-value housing, perhaps the amount of community benefit credit the developer gets for building lower-priced units could be based on the number that are still occupied by the original owners after a certain amount of time. The flaw here is that the developers don't have much control over what people do with their units after they buy them, but they do have the power to stop these kinds of marketing techniques and instead focus on the actual community they're becoming a part of.

The dialogue surrounding development and intensification all too often seems to disregard the fact that what they're building are people's homes, and the people who live there will be citizens, constituents, and community members. I'd really like to see analysis of a development's impact on "the community" include the people who will be living there.

Good morning!

Here's what I'm doing today and why.

There might be some posts dealing with news items that are no longer fresh, because I'll probably be tapping into my drafts folder and unblogged ideas. Just think of them as deleted scenes that are now included in DVD extras.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A faster alternative to peeling eggs

The way I was taught to open hard-boiled eggs is to smash them on the counter and roll them around until there's a bunch of cracks in the shell, then peel the shell off. I find that disproportionately time-consuming (#FirstWorldProblems).

I've discovered a faster way. You know how you open a soft-boiled egg by putting it in an egg cup and tapping the shell with the spoon until it breaks into two pieces? Put your hard-boiled egg down on a plate or bowl (or the counter if no one's watching) and tap it like you would a soft-boiled egg but lengthwise instead of widthwise. Now you've got two pieces, and each piece is the perfect size to scoop out of the shell with a teaspoon. Way faster!

The disadvantage of this method is you need a spoon and perhaps a dish of some sort, but if you have a dishwasher it's more efficient.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

People who are really two people

When I hear of someone but they don't have particular immediate importance to me, I mentally file away their name with the set of distinguishing characteristics. Sometimes I later hear of another person with a reasonably similar set of distinguishing characteristics, and I file their name away too. Then I carry these names around for a while, not realizing that they're two different people until I see them compared or contrasted.

Here are a few people I've recently learned are two different people:

- Van Halen and Van Morrison

- Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder

- Keith Olbermann and Anderson Cooper

- Peggy Nash and Cheri DiNovo

- Brian Posehn and Louis C.K.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Fear and respect

Before the G20, I respected the police and was not particularly afraid of them.

Since the G20, I'm afraid of police and find it very difficult to respect them.

It appears that, in my emotional matrix, fear and respect correlate inversely, and might even be mutually exclusive.

I'm more inclined to cooperate with people when I respect them than when I fear them. Respect makes me actually want to cooperate, whereas fear makes me just not want to get caught not cooperating. (Nuance: fear doesn't make me not want to not cooperate, it just makes me not want to get caught not cooperating.)

It would be interesting to study how universal these feelings are.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Half-formed idea: how to incentivize clinical testing of alternative medicine

I previously came up with the idea that they should incentivize clinical testing of natural remedies and other alternative medicine.

Here's about half a solution: everything that has been clinically proven gets covered by OHIP.

The advantage for practitioners of alternative medicine and for patients is that treatment is no longer limited by the patient's budget. Patients can receive - and practitioners can be paid for - what treatment is needed.

The advantage for social responsibility is that this makes it easier to get things that have been tested than things that haven't been tested.

The advantage for OHIP is that alternative medicine would probably be in many areas cheaper. Pharmaceuticals and medical technology can be hellaciously expensive. If herbs or acupuncture can be proven to do just as good a job, even if it's in just 10% of situations, that would save significant money.

This would mean that OHIP would have to cover a wider range of things than it currently does, such as medication and dental care. But that's a good thing - everyone needs those things and they represent significant expenses for people who don't have benefits through their jobs. Broader coverage would be more in line with OHIP's actual mandate.

One change that would be necessary is coming up with a mechanism for OHIP to cover over-the-counter medications. Many of them have been clinically tested, and we don't want to clog up the health care system by forcing people to go to the doctor for a prescription for vitamins or decongestant. But that shouldn't be too difficult to work out. Our health cards have magnetic strips, so why not just swipe them at point of sale?

In this plan, things that have not undergone any clinical testing will still remain available and paid for at the patient's expense, like they are now. Things that have gone through testing and have been proven ineffective but harmless will also continue to be available at the patient's expense. Only things proven to be actively harmful will be pulled. So, for proponents of alternative medicine, there's no downside unless they're peddling snake venom.

The missing link in this plan is still funding and facilities for conducting the research in the first place. It's likely a significant start-up expense and I doubt there are labs just sitting around waiting to be used. They'd still have to work out that part.