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How to Solve the Organ Donating Disaster

Exchanging goods and services has been a staple of every functioning society, proving its effectiveness. And yet we’ve failed to implement this economic concept in the organ donor market, which currently lies in a dire state. Although we buy and sell almost everything these days, the idea of selling organs for a monetary value is still revolting to most. The suggestion may be repulsive, but certainly not more than the 4,000 deaths that occurred in the U.S. in 2011 of people waiting for a kidney.

The increasing demand of organs each year in the U.S., coupled with the stagnant supply of donors, has caused a grave shortage in the organ market. In a normal market for a good, there would be a shift in the price of the good until demand and supply hit equilibrium. Since there’s an absence of price in this market, there’s no reason for the demand to decrease and, more importantly, no reason for the suppliers to give more. The absence of price means the absence of incentives. And an exchange based solely on altruism is sure to disappoint.

In 1984, under the National Organ Transplant Act, it became illegal for donors to receive any sort of compensation for their organs, including things as minuscule as a bouquet of thank-you flowers. Since a donor is to undergo major surgery and take a  number of days off of work for recovery, it’s an ambitious task to ask thousands to go through that for a stranger, without anything in return. Professor of law Michelle Goodwin thinks modifying this law to make it less stringent, such as compensating donors for lost days of work, could have a positive impact on the system.

While the U.S. is struggling to find an answer to this issue, the rest of the world has begun implementing incentives to resolve the large organ shortage. Israel has rewarded donors by prioritizing organ wait lists with those that have donated or plan to be deceased donors. This law was put in place too recently to gauge if there has been any concrete result, but I predict that it won’t have enough of an impact to facilitate a dramatic change. The policy is based on the assumption that people will take into consideration the low probability that they may be on the wait list themselves one day, and then make the decision to donate based on that assumption. Unfortunately, I don’t recall people being very keen on planning for the future.

Other countries have instated a “presumed consent” policy, where instead of having the choice to check a box on your driver’s license to be a donor, it’s assumed that you will donate your organs after death, unless you state otherwise. All the countries that have this policy in place are among the leading countries in deceased donors. This simple change can be easily implemented in the U.S. because it doesn’t affect a person’s choice directly; if people don’t want to donate, they can still opt out. Presumed consent just eliminates the chances of people not donating out of laziness, missing the donor box on a form or making an ill-informed decision at 16.

These options are simple and possibly effective, but would legalizing the sale of organs be the most effective solution to the shortage? In theory, yes, but there may be too many negative externalities. Mainly, the prevalent economic inequality would result in major and fatal disadvantages for the poor, for example, if the rich continually outbid them. The poor could also start performing self-surgical procedures and sell their organs because of a dire need to make money. With that, there may be an increase in crime with the temptation to steal and kill for organs. This black market for organs already exists, however, even with people asking for and selling organs through avenues like Craigslist. The black market for organs that is extremely prevalent in India and China has proven these possible externalities: the result is that either people are forced to give up their organs, which is further exploiting the poor, or people are voluntarily doing so in an unsafe manner.

On the other hand, Iran recently legalized the sale of organs and, though we don’t know the long-term effects, they do currently have an empty wait list. Donors are compensated between $2000-$4000…would that be enough to get you to donate?

You decide if we should make a change based on the facts (research done by Fareeha and illustrated by designer Joann Dzon):

Sources:

Featured image from: http://www.bioedge.org/index.php/bioethics/bioethics_article/9887

http://www.freakonomics.com/2011/08/23/pay-to-play-should-registered-organ-donors-get-priority-as-recipients-the-organ-donor-games/

http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/policiesAndBylaws/nota.asp

http://www.freakonomics.com/2011/06/15/how-to-best-incentivize-organ-donations/

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2007/1015/032.html

http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/
http://faculty.winthrop.edu/stonebrakerr/book/hearts.htm

arrested

Why I Think These Shows Got Canceled

There have been some shows in the past decade that were canceled prematurely, despite the quality and decent following. I went back and watched entire series of some of the most raved about television shows so I could determine the validity of the hype, considering they were eventually canceled, and partly so I could participate in the cult discussions.

Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000/NBC)

Why It’s Good: A show about the high school experience through the eyes of outsiders, Freaks and Geeks was rashly aborted after one season. This show is hilarious in such subtle ways and the casting is unbelievable. James Franco, Jason Segal, Seth Rogen, Rashida Jones and little Shia Lebouf (for 30 seconds of one episode) were among the now star-studded cast.  The dialogue and storylines are funny and well-executed by the cast. It’s more realistic than most of any high school-based shows on television.

Why It was Canceled: I never understood why this show was 45 minutes. The best moments of the dramedy would have been illuminated in a more succinct script and I think audiences would have grown to adore the characters more quickly in a 23-minute episode. Along with that, it’s set in the 1980s, and it outwardly depicts kids doing drugs, which maybe the audience wasn’t prepared for quite yet. The true realistic approach that the writers took, however, was that none of the beloved characters really found any success in their adolescent adventures. There’s a group of underdeveloped dorky boys (the geeks) that try to get the ladies, despite their love for Dungeons and Dragons and complete lack of athleticism. The freaks were a group of burnouts that former Mathlete Lindsay Weir ends up joining in an effort to rebel against her picturesque suburban lifestyle. In the 18 episodes you learn to adore every character and so it’s agonizing to see them fail, in their attempts to fit in or rebel, over and over again.

“When I created that show, I honestly thought, who wouldn’t relate to something like this? Who wouldn’t want to see true stories from their past shown in a funny, realistic way? And maybe I didn’t bank on the fact that there were a lot of people who didn’t want to re-experience those years. But I found out pretty quickly. Here’s a good example: I was talking with a TV critic when the show was on the air. We were discussing the episode “I’m with the band” –this is when the Nick character auditions as a group’s drummer. Nick is terrible and embarrasses himself in front of Lindsay, the girl he wants to impress. And the critic said to me, ‘When Nick walked into that audition I had to leave the room. I knew everything was going to go wrong and I couldn’t deal with it’….The problem with Freaks and Geeks was that it didn’t hit that pleasure center. It played in the pain center.” – Creator, Paul Fieg

Arrested Development (2003-2006/Fox)

Why It’s Good: AD absolutely lives up to the hype that its cult-following has established. It is probably the most clever show that has ever aired. The jokes are quick and the casting is out of the park. Jason Bateman’s character sits well in between the dramatized personalities surrounding him. The genius in the writing is unmatched.

“In the ‘Out on a Limb’ episode, we had the one-handed character of Buster Bluth sit on a bench that read Army Surplus Official Supply, but all you could see around Buster’s body were the words ‘Arm Off,'” creator Mitch Hurwitz notes.

Why It Got Canceled: I think the humor was too elevated for a lot of viewers. The plots are complex and there aren’t really any pauses after most quips, so if you’re not paying attention, you won’t catch the joke. Also, the first two seasons are tears-worthy funny, but the third season does decline a bit in its plot.

“Do you know what a callback is? It’s when a writer revisits a past event and then uses it to make a joke. A callback usually gets a laugh because the audience is part of the joke; they’ve experienced an event along with the characters. But in arrested, I put in “call forwards,” which were new for me. I inserted hints of events that hadn’t yet happened. And, of course, there’s no way you can get laughs out of that.

“In a larger sense, Arrested paid off with the portion of the audience who wanted to pay close attention. I wanted there to be hidden clues and auguries o things to come. Those viewers who paid attention would be more rewarded than those who didn’t.” – Mitch Hurwitz, creator

Party Down (2009-2010/Starz)

Why It’s Good: Party Down is about a group of wannabe Hollywood actors and writers that instead work as caterers in LA. The genius of it is that each episode is an event they cater for, so the setting, characters and plot is easily changed, but the heart of the story – their wanting to succeed in their other passions—is always the overarching theme. The characters are great and the chemistry between the two main characters (Adam Scott and Lizzy Kaplan) is perfect. Ken Marino and Jane Lynch were also highlights, and Martin Starr, a geek in Freaks and Geeks, plays a grown-up geek to the tee.

Why It Got Canceled: The best parts of the show were the relationship between the two main characters, Ken Marino’s character and Jane Lynch. When second season came around, all of that was botched, especially in the beginning of the season. Without the brewing love story, I really didn’t care about anyone else enough. Jane Lynch was replaced by Megan Mullalley and obviously there’s no discussion even comparing the two. And Ken Marino’s character is completely different in the earlier episodes of second season, and he becomes less likeable and therefore you root for him less. In essence, I think the show got off track a bit and perhaps lost its fans along the way (or just me).

Heroes (2006-2010/NBC)

Why It’s Good: I always tell people that the first season of Heroes is one of my favorite seasons of any show because it introduces supernatural powers in a way that you don’t have to stretch your imagination too far, because the writing, for example in the opening monologues, is really stellar, and because the plot twists were both riveting and believable. It was a show that I thought could be cool for both comic book nerds and people with limited imaginations.

Why It Got Canceled: Something happened along the way that I think they just forgot what the show was about to begin with. The writer’s strike forced a shortened second season and an abrupt ending to the plot. The third season tried to pick it back up with momentum, but it unfortunately it ran with momentum in the wrong direction. As each season went by, the new super powers being introduced were unrealistic, even to a lover of fantasy. The plot twists seemed completely forced and I never like the shift that happens in characters where they switch from being bad to good and vice versa, and suddenly this happens in every other episode with 80% of the cast. It’s so easy to detach yourself from these characters by the fourth season, which I think is a horrible attribute in a show.

Office Hand Dryers Paper Towels

DYK: Paper Towels v. Hand Dryers

Amongst so many things I had to adjust to after moving away to college, one of the most prominent – and most annoying – was having the hand dryer as my only means of drying off. It’s not that I’ve never used a hand dryer before, but going to my dorm bathroom each morning and having to spend an extra 30 seconds along with the obnoxious sound that will surely wake you out of your drowsiness was really the worst. So is there a big enough cost benefit to depriving me the luxury of paper towels?

Cost Efficiency

In short, yes. The initial cost of installing a hand dryer ($300) is much greater than a paper towel dispenser ($30), but the long-term cost of a hand dryer is much less. According to Master Building Specialties, a case of 2,400 paper towels was priced at about $25 and lasted for about 960 hand dryings, which means each drying hand costs 3 cents. They estimate that it runs about .13 cents per hand under a hand dryer. This doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but in places like the air port or movie theaters where they have an influx of people rolling through and using 2.5 towels per person, it makes a big difference – enough to offset a whiny college student’s complaints. Point: Hand Dryers.

Time Efficiency

When a facility is making the executive decision on bathroom hand drying, I doubt they put much weight on the time it takes the patron to dry off, but it makes a difference to me. Standard air dryers run for 30 seconds each time you press the button. A dryer with adequate power will do the job in one go, but there are those unfortunate times where you have to wait for a second round. Drying off with a paper towel takes about 5 seconds and you can do it while walking and there’s never a line. Point: Paper Towels.

Environmental Efficiency

Ah, yes, with our carbon feet disintegrating the Earth, configuring the greener option is significant. Both carry an environmental cost, with one exerting a lot of electricity and the other depleting our tree life, but which is more detrimental? According to Climate Conservatory, there’s about 0.123 pounds of greenhouse-gas emission per two paper towels used and between 0.02 and 0.088 pounds for a drying session. So with those statistics, air dryers are the greener choice. There are variables, however, since the Climate Conservatory assumed each patron uses 2 towels and didn’t configure towels that contain recycled material. If each person only used a single sheet, it’s noted that there wouldn’t be much of a difference between the two, if anything at all. But for now – Point: Hand Dryer.

Sources:

Featured Image: http://www.greenandsave.com/greenoffice/other_rooms/hand_air_dryers_vs_paper_towels

http://www.masterbuilding.net/kb_results.asp?ID=19

http://www.ehow.com/facts_4796434_paper-towels-vs-hand-dryers.html

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_green_lantern/2008/06/electric_hand_dryers_vs_paper_towels.html

http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/greener-dryer-better-lca-of-hand-dryers-vs-paper-towels.html

http://www.grist.org/article/umbra-towels

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Signs of New York – Photography

My first visit to New York City involved a lot of walking, and among those strolls through the city I stumbled upon some stirring signs. I encountered signs of artistic and fashion inspiration, signs that grew my motivation to move there, oh and actual, literal signs. Through my countless attempts to capture the city’s allure through photography came this effort to do so in a series of signs and words.

Avengers Movie

Why The Avengers is a Nerd’s Dream

Stars:  Robert Downey Jr.Chris EvansMark RuffaloChris Hemsworth, and Scarlett Johansson

Writers: Joss Whedon (screenplay), Zak Penn (story), Stan Lee (comic book) and Jack Kirby (comic book)

Director: Joss Whedon

The first of many comic book adaptations of this summer, The Avengers sets the nerdy bar even higher than the hype. The movie has been out for a mere week and I’ve managed to thoroughly enjoy it twice already, both viewings filled with excitement, laughter and joy.

The Avengers is a group of superheroes, much like the X-Men, that are teamed together to save the Earth from catastrophic enemies. Unlike the X-Men, however, the Avengers don’t really choose to band together, so the battle of egos and some’s unique social ineptitude is – dare I say- a MARVEL to watch on screen. The enemy in this saga is the brother and former villain of Thor, Loki. He did a great job making viewers hate him in Thor, so it was great to see the depth of his corrupt character unfold in The Avengers.

The movie works so well for a number of reasons. The chemistry between the heroes is captivating, which made scenes with all the characters so entertaining. One of my favorite things about the superhero genre are the quick quips and Avengers was full of the back and forth without sliding into a ghastly Gilmore Girls-esque dialogue. I audibly laughed during many scenes–both a testament to the writing and the acting.

There is a moment in the movie where every hero is in trouble without being in the same scene. I love this part because you realize how much you equally care about each character, and it’s after this point when the heroes truly work together. The balance of nerdy humor, riveting action and an engaging plot makes this one of the best movies of its genre. One thing that never ceases to ruin superhero movies is when directors and screenwriters place too much emphasis on the love story (aka Spider-Man 3) and I was so happy to see that Avengers didn’t make that mistake. They gave subtle nods to respective romances, such as Pepper Pots and Tony Stark, but nothing that overpowered the movie at all. This movie is a must-see for comic book nerds and muggles alike. If anything, there’s eye candy for both genders.

Oh and for those of you saying this is better than Batman Begins and The Dark Knight–Shut up.

charlize-theron-

Movie Review: Young Adult

A tale of a grown woman stuck in the past, Young Adult snatches a go-to romantic comedy plot and twists it into a dark cultural commentary on society’s arrogance blocking its ability to mature. Mavis Gray (Charlize Theron) is a 37-year-old semi-successful author of a mediocre young adult series. She makes a visit to her hometown of Mercury, Minn., to reconnect with her high school sweetheart Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). Her urge to rekindle a two-decade-old relationship is spurred by the notice she receives that Slade is a new father. The once popular and beautiful Mavis is now a slightly disheveled and depressed version of her young self, longing to fill her life’s void of happiness and to prove to the world that the glories of high school popularity never fade.

Upon her return to Mercury, Mavis bumps into a similarly dejected high school classmate Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), whom she conveniently neglected back in the day. He acts as the voice of reason and as a much needed companion in her current alcoholic binges. Young Adult takes you with the delusional Mavis in her attempt at mending her present by reliving the past. With explosive scenes revealing Mavis’ repulsive character and Matt’s troubled past, you leave this movie feeling grim about the life Matt was forced to live and the life Mavis has chosen to live, both depressing at best. The film moves slowly, but not slower than reality, so it works beautifully. The actors portray these unlikable characters so well that I left the movie not knowing if I enjoyed it. Not because I couldn’t recognize its superb quality, but I’m used to leaving movies satisfied knowing the “bad” characters have received their due justice, and that feeling is purposefully unfulfilled here. With some emotionally disturbing and challenging scenes, the film captures the characters’ disillusionment perfectly.

You should see this, if only to witness Theron’s and Oswalt’s  Oscar-worthy performances. The character development is well-crafted through subtleties, and that’s a testament to the writing and directing. Though Mavis’ character is clearly not likable, you feel yourself rooting for her, and that pretty much sums up the genius of it.

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First Flashes

In my recent itch to become more well-rounded (and spend carelessly), I bought my first SLR camera. I’ve done pretty well capturing mental pictures of moments in the past, but I want to begin cementing those images in print before my old age gets the best of me. With a fancy camera it’s easy to ignore the complexities involved and settle with its simplistic features, knowing that more often than not the photo will come out looking good. But in an effort to expand my knowledge and extend beyond the barriers of my talents, I’ve set 2012 as the beginning of my trek to photog-stardom. OK, maybe not, but I do want to learn as much as I can. So far I’m under the impression that what you shoot has a greater impact on photo quality than the skill of the photographer, and I want to be proven wrong. I’ll stop by here now and again to document my progression and share what I’ve learned, in case a fellow beginner chooses to foolishly follow my path.

Lesson #1: Sometimes accidental photos are unexpectedly your favorites, and posed and planned pictures are the worst. Never stop clicking, especially when you’re in a serene environment full of joy. You never know what will pop up in film.

My first takes -

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DYK: How Many Send Santa Letters?

The Postal Service estimates that they receive millions of “Dear Santa” letters addressed to the North Pole each year. In 1912, Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock thought of an alternative plan to tossing these out that perhaps would help children in dire need. Hitchcock authorized local postmasters and citizen volunteers to respond to letters from needy children, thus beginning the organization: Operation Santa.

Years later, Operation Santa was joined by charitable organizations and corporations who soon provided responses with gifts to families who had no expectation of receiving any. In 2011, there are 75 Operation Santa offices across the nation, full of volunteers and postal elves that rummage through thousands of letters and compile a list of presents for families.

Sources:

http://www.z1043.com/pages/jacksonblue.html?article=9541726

http://operationsanta.com/operation-santa-faqs/

http://www.buzzfeed.com/melismashable/kids-letters-to-santa