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Sunday, June 2, 2019

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Section 17, PCK, & Vibe City
Section 17, PCK, & Vibe City
Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Years ago, I co-founded a Non-Profit project for the community and arts based out of MA called Vibe City. Around the same time I was pretty involved with Section 17 and Planetary Circus Kingdom (Soundcloud, Youtube). We worked with a team of amazing supporters, contributors, friends and artists, focusing on the the advancement of independent art, creativity, positivity, love, and the success and sustainability of community, and the role that we all play in these important fields; both current and past members and their creative and passionate endeavors. We hosted numerous events and seminars with artists looking to expand their consciousness and follow their dreams. It's a wonderful DIY community. I wore many hats during these inspiring years. I collaborated with PCK directly as they were involved in every project. We built a studio to create, record, and practice all forms of expression and creativity through sound and art. I built a live streaming service to broadcast our activity and maintained some form of web presence. Purchased more music/art equipment, lighting, event gear, decorations, building materials, and studio tools than I can count. I helped manage, coordinate, plan, and execute all of our events. We organized a series of art and music showcases around New England. We completed numerous paintings and recorded multiple albums during this time. I'm so grateful for that time of my life. I was able to evolve and learn together with a growing, caring collective of people.

vibecityminiflyer


Lung Cancer
Lung Cancer
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Throughout my life, I’ve been surrounded by smokers: My grandfather, father, and step-mother – all smokers. And guess what? They all have cancer. Growing up with the smell of tobacco lingering in my nostrils allowed me develop a keen hatred for smokers. This hatred has now evolved into addiction and dependence. I can attribute this to my social surroundings and careless nutrition habits. Part of smoking involves the act of deep breathing, and I know that helps calm me down too. I'm aware can I can do breathwork without the extra nicotine, It's also stimulating, and a way for me to take a break from people. I struggle with nicotine every day. Unfortunately, New England is an area with some of the highest lung cancer rates in the country2. However, clearly I’m not the only addict in recent memory. Cancer Facts & Figures 20101 states: “Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States for both men and women.” As a potential client of the 1.3 million deaths worldwide since 20043, I felt compelled to learn more about my potential disease.

Lung cancer derives from uncontrollable cell growth in lung tissue. This growth may facilitate metastasis, which stretches beyond the lungs. Most lung cancers are carcinomas of the lung from epithelial cells. Since starting smoking, I’ve experienced numerous symptoms that lead to lung cancer: Dyspnea, hemoptysis, wheezing, chest pain, and cachexia. Though I may not have already contracted the disease, I have educated myself further on a practice beyond healthy nutrition habits that could save my life: Stop smoking cigarettes. 

Lung cancers are classified by histological type, distinguished by size and appearance of the malignant cells seen only under a microscope. These two types are non-small cell (NCSLC) and small-cell lung carcinoma (SCLC). NSCLC “refers to a subset of cancer types that account for approximately 70% of lung cancers, including squamous cell carcinoma of the lung, large cell carcinoma of the lung, and adenocarcinoma of the lung7.” Conversely, SCLC is responsible for approximately 15% of bronchogenic carcinomas. However, deaths resulting from SCLC in the United States have decreased during the past few decades. “Without treatment, SCLC has the most aggressive clinical course of any type of pulmonary tumor, with median survival from diagnosis of only 2 to 4 months.  SCLC is more responsive to chemotherapy and radiation therapy; however, a cure is difficult to achieve because SCLC has a greater tendency to be widely disseminated by the time of diagnosis. It is the cancer most commonly associated with paraneoplastic syndromes, including the syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion, paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration, and Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome9.”

During my research, I stumbled across a breakthrough for NSCLC. “Research at Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center led by Charles E. Chalfant, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and molecular Biology, discovered a previously unknown mechanism in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells that contributes to their ability to maintain and grow tumors. Narrowing in on this mechanism could provide a breakthrough for the development of effective therapies for NSCLC and other cancers.”10 But wait, there’s even more hope. A new inhalable dry powder treatment has displayed increasing survival rates, facilitating less radiation or surgery and preventing more toxins from polluting the body. “Current lung cancer treatments can be grueling and take a significant toll on the patient," said Raimar Löbenberg from the University of Alberta. "Our results show that this treatment method may not only increase someone's survival rate but could also potentially be less toxic to the body."11

Since cancer develops in our airways, it makes sense that this prevention of airflow would cause breathing problems. This may facilitate secretion accumulation behind the blocked airway, exposing the victim to contraction of pneumonia. In addition, numerous lung cancers are rich in blood supply. So, if these cells are sensitive, blood my come from the cancer into the airways and essentially coughed out of the mouth. Tumors like Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome, hypercalcemia, or syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone (SIADH) may also attract the disease. Tumors sitting on top of the lung causes altered sweat patterns and eye muscle issues because brachial plexus invasion.

I found throughout my studies that almost 90% of lung cancer developed across the world is because of smoking4. Particularly of cigarettes, because this smoke contains over 60 known carcinogens, radioisotopes resulting from radon decay, nitrosamine, and benzopyrene. Nicotine also depresses the immune system reaction to malignant growth in tissue that is exposed5. Even exposure to wood smoke destroys the lungs, increasing risk of COPD and related pulmonary problems. "When cigarette smokers are exposed to wood smoke their risk of having reduced lung function increases," explained Yohannes Tesfaigzi, Ph.D. senior scientist and director of COPD Program at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, where the research was completed. "Cigarette smokers who have both changes in sputum DNA and are exposed to wood smoke have a synergistically increased risk of having reduced lung function and other indicators of COPD such as chronic mucous hypersecretion."6 Other causes of lung cancer include passive smoking, radon gas, asbestos, viruses, and particulate matter. Clearly, exposure is what kills.

There are multiple ways to treat lung cancer. Diagnosing the disease begins with a chest radiograph. If this does not suffice, a bronchoscopy or CT scan may be needed. Treating lung cancer depends on the cell type, spread, and infected person’s performance.  Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radio therapy. There are also various nutritional recommendations depending on present symptoms and treatment is endured by the patient. These options can be reviewed at the Health Castle’s Lung Cancer Diet & Treatment website. Most side effects subside after treatment, so a person can gradually resume a normal diet upon recovery. If a healthy weight and diet are stabilized, a person may begin to pursue appropriate healthy exercise and eating habits specific to their needs.

Combating lung cancer should be apparent by this point. Preventing lung cancer is one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent manifestation. Avoiding tobacco smoke of any kind must be the main foal for prevention. Even though we may never be able to escape smoke because of our social surroundings, we can avoid directly inhaling potential cancer. Long term supplement use of multi-vitamins like C, E, and folate don’t reduce risk. Conversely, this may actually increase the risk of lung cancer.

Smoke seems to be the source of lung cancer issues, even though lung cancer was around before the mass adoption of this terrible habit. Everything unhealthy results from smoke, especially the leading cause of cancer deaths in our World. Bottom line, young kids, and myself, need to stop smoking. Happiness and health are on the horizon.

Resources

1http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/TobaccoCancer/tobacco-related-cancer-fact-sheet

2http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/statistics/state.htm

3http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs297/en/

4http://www.ctsu.ox.ac.uk/~tobacco/

5http://www.nature.com/nri/journal/v2/n5/full/nri803.html

6http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100715090651.htm

7http://www.virtualmedicalcentre.com/diseases.asp?did=709

8Govindan R, Page N, Morgensztern D, et al.: Changing epidemiology of small-cell lung cancer in the United States over the last 30 years: analysis of the surveillance, epidemiologic, and end results database. J Clin Oncol 24 (28): 4539-44, 2006

9http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/small-cell-lung/HealthProfessional

10http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101203113241.htm

11http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101115142005.htm

12http://www.healthcastle.com/lung_cancer_diet.shtml

13Understanding Normal & Clinical Nutrition, 8th Edition

 

Google Memo
Google Memo
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

To:  Eric E. Schmidt, CEO of Google, Inc.

Re:  Google Ethics & Internationalization in China

Google, Inc. is facing a difficult dilemma. Should you lobby the Chinese government to change its censorship system? Operating within China must be considered. Should you physically enter the market, continue to rely on Google.com/cn, or abandon the Chinese market altogether? You want to protect Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” image, which could be affected due to user arrests as a result of using certain features. Recently increasing Chinese newspaper criticism and a lack of cooperation regarding firm information dissemination has lead to a question of how much Google really cares about complying with Chinese government regulations.

Good has resulted from Google’s expansion into China’s arena, as they’ve made strides in building positive relationships with the Chinese Government. However, U.S. political pressure for change in foreign countries has portrayed an image of disrespect towards varying cultures, including China. You’re global perspective mindset for global dynamic competitiveness regarding differing cultures and your specific knowledge skills should be maintained. These socioeconomic and sociopolitical differences are opportunities. 

Google has the capacity to learn from participation in China, and transfer that knowledge to operations elsewhere in the world. You are learning to cope with a different institutional, legal, and cultural environment. This is a vehicle for innovation and improvement of Google’s products in existing markets. However, this is difficult to achieve while China limits consumer access to information.

You’ve been able to increase Google’s geographic scope by penetrating China’s market (i.e. internationalization). Now, you can leverage Google’s existing resources and supplement them with China’s resources. Take note, while exercising this option, you do not want to insult incumbents and threaten profitability. But, reconfiguration of the value chain and proper leverage of resources will help protect Google while continuing penetration of the new attractive Chinese market. Leveraging existing resources gives Google something to build off of that incumbents and other possible new entrants are likely to lack.

High research and development expenditures have helped you take advantage of both economies of scale and scope, in turn affecting Google’s economic logic. Google has been able to share its resources across markets, but it is difficult to be successful in sub-geographic markets like China or United States. The abundance of differing cultures within an already foreign market significantly increases complications in that economy.

By entering the Chinese market, Google may have caused the internet to become more isolated and regulated because of the new accessibility of information that you provide. It acts as an incentive for a user to find out more about whatever they find interesting, landing ignorant or tempted Chinese consumers in handcuffs. A government must look out for its people, and given China’s current economic well-being and growth, it’s difficult to argue how Google’s presence has positively influenced the “goodness” in China’s economy. By limiting access to certain information, China is allowing the economy to remain relatively stable and continue what has been working. In China’s case, consumer ignorance is bliss, and this must be recognized and respected.

When considering international strategy, you should look for global trends. China has seen an increase in economic activity and a growing number of consumers. However, these trends involve high governance and coordination costs, which increase as diversification increases. Diversification causes Chinese businesses to adapt to the changing environment and Google’s presence, as Google has realized.  Also, you want to resolve tension between Chinese preferences and global standards. Google’s global vision tradeoff consists of a relatively low local response, but presents many opportunities to gain global efficiencies. You can build cost advantages through centralized, global scale operations. This vision requires the centralized and globally scaled resources and capabilities that Google possesses. You can easily disseminate your unique capabilities world-wide.

You are forced to count on the likelihood that Google’s services will meet the needs of Chinese consumers without fine tuning and customizing Google, in effect lowering costs. If you do not choose to follow these recommendations, you should take what Google has learned from this experience in China and apply these lessons and new knowledge in other markets. You do not want to fail due to a for-seeable external, economical, and social change. Respecting China and their practices is of the utmost importance, and lobbying for a foreign government to change so you can turn a profit is an avoidable cost, and if pursued, could lead to company disaster.


Tiffany & Co Memo
Tiffany & Co Memo
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

To:  Michael Kowalski, CEO of Tiffany & Co

Re:  Policy Recommendation for Recession positioning and pricing strategy 

Dear Mr. Michael Kowalski,

Tiffany’s current positioning and strategic focus is one of focused differentiation. You offer a luxury product that is generally purchased by customers that can afford higher prices. Currently, Tiffany’s is having difficulty coping with the affects of a recession and maintaining its brand image. There’s been a decrease in demand for high end goods while operating in an economy where there is an increase in job losses and cuts in consumer spending. Namely, you are hurting in places where you are mature; such as the United States and Europe. The New York market alone accounts for 15% of Tiffany’s sales.

Tiffany’s must continue to focus on innovation capabilities and product improvements that has allowed you to maintain your competitive advantage and set prices at the industry average; maintaining them above competitors in this recession. You want to avoid being “stuck in the middle”. So, I recommend continuing investing heavily in quality control, design, innovation and marketing.

Tiffany’s has enormous strength in its brand, and you don’t want to jeopardize that by decreasing prices or forgetting about your loyal customer base. Teaming up with well-known designers will further reinforce your differentiation focus. Adding to this could be the development of new designs and increased distribution of, say, a certain watch line. However, you want to ensure that you don’t make your brand too accessible and hurt Tiffany’s reputation.

I recommend you implement a focused marketing campaign to build on core competencies. Tiffany’s must stick to its core customers while simultaneously reaching new business. Reaching new business is vital to your growth strategy, so you must ensure that you don’t alienate your current customer base during these vital growth stages. Since Tiffany’s is hurting in more mature countries such as the United States and Europe, expansion into developing countries like China, Asia, South America and the Middle East is recommended. Currently with 94 stores in Asia/Pacific and 24 in Europe, Tiffany’s could increase this amount by 6% over the next year; opening stores that will be exposed to volatility in the market. Also, in the event of inflation due to a weakening U.S. economy, your sizeable asset inventory would benefit from these new locations because of inflation’s affect on hard assets. In addition, your non-U.S. revenues would significantly increase if the U.S. dollar continues to weaken.

In the non-market environment, Tiffany’s wants to offset their competitive cost disadvantage and create value. Social, political, and legal environments are important considerations while expanding in to foreign markets. Entering high priced markets are ideal, and the possibility of closing stores in areas where you have matured and prices are low should be considered. Even though it may be perceived as ‘bad’ that a firm closes a store, it may actually be most beneficial to shareholders and other interested parties. 

Similar to Toys R Us, you could implement a sophisticated control system to help with inventory issues and identifying hot sellers in varying regions. Once identified, Tiffany’s should pursue joint ventures with other companies in these foreign markets for information on store locations and differing government regulatory systems. You have an advantage in the non-market environment because it’s difficult to replicate your knowledge, expertise, and skill of managers. Tiffany’s managers understand issues in the internal and external environment. So, with this effective approach and quality reputation, your non-market strategy is one of support for free trade, ethics, relationships, and the environment in these foreign countries.

From a market environment standpoint, Tiffany’s has a cost advantage abroad. As referenced above, entering open markets with large populations and high incomes are ideal. Once penetrated, you should develop relationships with local retailers concerned with jeopardizing current customers and distancing channels.

As discussed throughout this memo, redefining your arenas and reconsidering the firm’s competitive mindset are both feasible strategies for solving Tiffany’s current issues. You can avoid using price cuts and tarnishing Tiffany’s brand name if you implement these strategies. Even though I believe the implication of strategies related to creating complementors out of suppliers, buyers, and competitors, as well as shifting your strategic thinking towards revolutionary and creative ideas are vital to success, the pursuit of redefining Tiffany’s arenas is the most important alternative that best balances the varying interests in this situation.


The Matrix: A Heroic Tale
The Matrix: A Heroic Tale
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Introduction

"The standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation - initiation - return: which might be named the nuclear unit of the monomyth." - Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces.

The Matrix strings together aspects of the hero’s journey in order to manifest its main character. Neo (also known as Thomas Anderson), the protagonist of the film, closely follows the path of a traditional hero. The film also offers views of mythical themes and archetypes that are present in heroic mythic tales.

Neo, the One, commences the film agitated, looking for answers to an elusive feeling. He is called to a quest by Trinity, who warns Neo that he is in danger. Agents oppose him and direct him toward detachment from Neo’s illusionary vision of the Matrix. He then encounters his mentor, Morpheus, who offers him a choice of accepting the call to take his journey or return to the old world. After his acceptance, marked by taking the red pill, he becomes completely separated from the illusionary old world, as he is discarded as dead and cast out of the physical matrix reality, and is reborn into the real world. With guides by his side, he begins preparation for tests to come in the new world. The Oracle provides Neo with more direction as a mentor. He confronts the antagonist that is the Matrix in order to save Morpheus, successfully overcoming his adversaries and reaching his destiny. He returns from the experience with knowledge of his abilities and realization of Trinity’s passion. The final scene displays a challenge to the old order, as Neo states that he will remake the world and complete the Journey.

Myths function as a mirror of the soul, displaying our beliefs and fears for analysis. Numerous people can relate to The Matrix. Who hasn’t had the feeling of question regarding the world and all that we can physically experience? The Matrix is a mythological manifestation of that questioning, fears and doubts.

The Journey

From the first call to journey, Neo follows the cyclic stages of the hero’s development. From his refusal to answer the call to the acceptance of supernatural help to his crossing of the threshold into the dark world, all of the stages of the traditional journey are present.

Neo is in an environment where he is not comfortable. He needs something to change. He is going through the motions of life, subconsciously searching for more. Neo can sense there is something out there; something he can’t see, that he can sense. After initial refusal, he eventually becomes brave enough to follow his senses and answer his calling.

Neo must answer the call in order to grow and fulfill himself as a person. The call, in this case, appeared in the form of Trinity. She tells Neo that he is really searching for the Matrix. Trinity recognizes the hero within Neo, but Neo does not recognize Trinity. 

Neo originally rejects the call to take his journey. By choosing not to follow Morpheus’ directions to escape, he figuratively and physically refuses the call by dropping his cell phone, succumbing to the custody of the antagonists. This refusal could have led to his absolute imprisonment in a world where all is known, leaving his abilities unfulfilled. The antagonists plant a tracking device inside Neo as punishment for his refusal to answer the call.

Neo eventually answers the call, moving into a world of quest where infinite growth is possible. He commits himself to the journey by saying “yes” to Morpheus on the phone.  He travels to his mentor in the middle of the night and in severe weather. Danger is present in the air, presenting another reason for Neo to turn back. He is given another chance to reject his call, but accepts it upon Trinity’s influential words. She also warns him of Morpheus’ knowledge, saying that he knows more than Neo could imagine.

Neo meets his seemingly supernatural aid. Meeting his mentor helps him overcome his fear that led to his previous refusal to answer the call. The mentor knows of Neo, as Morpheus has been watching the One. Neo is only aware of his supernatural aid through word of mouth. The One is currently unaware of his destiny.  Regardless, Morpheus provides the hero with spiritual advice, offering him a road that leads to answers.  At this moment, Neo consciously chooses to embark on his adventure.

Neo proceeds to prepare himself physically and spiritually for his quest. His mentor teaches him lessons; among them to avoid temptations presented by the material world (e.g. women). These dangers would stand in his way to prevent him from completing his journey. He has now crossed the threshold, as the preparation is over and he is ready to set out on his adventure.

Neo begins to test his allies and enemies. He begins to experiment with the new world, seeing what is new, who’s on his side, and how everything works, meanwhile learning some lessons (e.g. the child with the spoon). Neo begins his journey with helpers and guides in Morpheus, Trinity, and the rest of the crew, facing challenges that the Matrix presents along the way. How he deals with these challenges indicates the depth of his inner and outer strength. All of the tests attribute to the same meaning; there are difficulties involved in achieving any goal worth having.

Now that Neo has explored his new world and uncovered some of its mysteries, he can get ready to face his adversaries (the agents) and follow his beliefs (saving his mentor Morpheus and creating peace). There is a moment of preparation before he faces his ultimate challenge. The agents challenge Neo in order to force the One to confront his fears. They draw forth aspects of Neo’s personality that is not readily perceived, allowing Neo a deeper understanding of self. The agents allow Neo to demonstrate his abilities (Neo realizes his full potential and ultimately defeats Agent Smith), and overcome his fear that his opponents have been exploiting.

Neo is rewarded for surviving his challenges. He finds true love in the form of Trinity. This love is so powerful that she is able to bring Neo back to life by declaring her love. Trinity is also a martyr. Neo does everything possible to keep her alive, whereas she accepts her potential death as a necessary part of Neo’s quest to save the world. Her willingness to sacrifice herself for Neo is not a sign of a weakness, rather a demonstration of her complete belief and commitment to a cause. She is just as determined to save humanity as Neo; her role in the journey is just different.

The One now must collect himself and start finishing his quest. This is indicated by his willingness to stand and fight against Agent Smith. At this moment, he is a changed person, beginning to believe in a cause greater than himself.

Neo must face death one last time, in a more final way, on a deeper level and bigger scale; so he is truly tested on what he has learned on his journey. Neo dies for humanity. Because of this, he holds out the promise for new life through this sacrifice. He displays the positive nature of death, as it is a catalyst for new birth through spirit and a final voyage into the unknown.

Lastly, there is a final return when Trinity acts as an elixir and revives Neo by declaring her love. Neo changes and brings back power and understanding to share with his cause. This is a moment of ultimate self-realization. He has faced and overcome death, being reborn with power that has been discovered on his journey.  This power allows him to destroy his opponents and capture control of his reality.

Themes

Man vs. Machine

Similar to the story of Grendel, The Matrix reveals that both humans and machines possess similar qualities. Humans are restlessly driven towards their beliefs, just like machines. Morpheus has full faith in the Oracle’s prophecy and in Neo. His beliefs are unquestioning, and his followers automatically follow him in his pursuit of his beliefs. Trinity’s love for Neo is consistent like machines. Her actions display her love, but her love is expressed through her actions rather than through emotion and passion. Neo expresses a robotic calm once he is transformed, similar to Beowulf’s machine-like qualities in Grendel. He and Trinity wear black, plain clothes that symbolize machine’s bleakness. They possess incredible strength and fighting skills that parallel the machines as a result of downloaded computer programs into their bodies.

In contrast, the Agents (antagonists) are creative, adaptive, and smooth. They shape-shift easily throughout different programs, listening to human speech and responding in accordance with their beliefs. Agent Smith displays human emotions of disgust and fear when he converses with Morpheus while trying to crack his brain.  He confesses himself after removing his glasses and ordering his comrades out of the room. Smith is seemingly desperate to become human.

How interdependent is man and machine? Technology threatens to become more intelligent than humans; however, technology does not need to be smarter than humans in order to enslave them. As long as humans use technology to solve human issues, humans and technology are interdependent. The machines grow and harvest humans in order to sustain their existence, as they are dependent on humans for life. Humans don’t rely on machines to survive unless they choose.  At one point in time, humans needed A.I. for something and created it in order to satisfy that need.

Choices

The Matrix offers the illusion of choice. The Matrix is a world with predetermined results, all questions already answered. In the real world, humans possess the power to alter their fate, make mistakes, and act on their beliefs. Neo chooses the real world and the choices that come along with it by swallowing the red pill earlier in the film. He learns that free will does not come easy, as the real world is dangerous and unorganized. Pleasure seemingly only exists in the Matrix as a computer program.

Cypher regrets choosing the red pill. He believes that even false pleasure is better than no pleasure, saying that “ignorance is bliss.” He sees the truth as an unnecessary nightmare. He is the classic betrayer, symbolizing Satan. Cypher wears red and has a goatee, which are representational images of Lucifer. In contrast, Neo and his supporters value reality and the ability to make choices, however unsatisfying they may be. Everyone has a responsibility to choose between the fake world and the real world.

Cypher is a classic example of a betrayer. He cooperates with the enemy in order to ensure his own false reality. However, without Cypher’s betrayal, Neo would not have transformed through resurrection.  Was this destiny? Was this the plan? If it was a plan, is there really a choice that can be made? 

Neo is an example of free will, as fate plays an important role in his quest. He relies heavily on the Oracle, as everything she says comes true in one shape or form. She guides Neo towards the right decisions, as she can see around time. If she does this correctly, Neo doesn’t have to choose and use his free will. 

Morpheus attempts to describe the Oracle as a guide, not just someone who can foresee the future. She is always right, raising questions as to how much free will Neo actually possesses. Her intelligence and swagger allows her visitors to trust in her, which may be why her prophecies are self-fulfilling. In this sense, she shares the same ultimate goal as Neo and his crew; they are trying to shape the future.

Reflections

The antagonists are constantly wearing sunglasses in the film. Sunglasses cover the eyes and reflect the image of those looking into them. When the sunglasses are removed, this indicates that the character is developing a new perspective or is vulnerable in some way. When Morpheus offers Neo a choice between the blue and red pill, they are reflected in each of Morpheus’ sunglasses, a reference to the two alternate views that Neo must choose between. When Neo enters the new world, his glasses protect him from dangers he encounters.

Mirrors offer a view of how we see ourselves in our world as well as the outside world. After Neo takes the red pill, he enters the real world, touching a mirror that infects him with a metallic substance. This suggests the dismissal of all illusions set forth by the Matrix as he enters a new world of perception. Reflective materials are consistent throughout the film (e.g. rain and building glass), shifting forms and locations, transforming its reflections.

Archetypes and Character Analysis

The Ruler/Savior/Messiah archetype exists in all cultures and beliefs, as it is the heart of philosophy of modern mankind. Neo represents this icon, imparting peace and a sense of hope for mankind. He is associated with a hidden understanding, singled out to be admired. He is different from the rest. He represents things that others are not. In this sense, Neo will use his abilities to save mankind from possible extinction. He uses his powers to heal rather than destroy. The healing, hope, and knowledge he imparts to those in the Matrix causes them to worship him, even though he claims that he didn’t save them, they saved themselves.

Neo, being the Ruler, has a counterpart in Agent Smith. Smith is the anti-hero. Like a mirror, there can be no reflection unless there is an image that first appears in the glass. Neo and Smith are light and dark. They are polar opposites. Where there is a Savior, there is a Demon. Without the existence of Neo, there would be no Smith. There can be no light without darkness.

Neo and Smith begin to mirror each other, one becoming more machine-like and the other becoming more human-like. The future of society rests on the balance of power between Neo and Smith. The film shows us that peace is greater than good and evil. Good and evil are the same, yet opposites. The only difference between Neo and Smith is their individual beliefs. 

Neo wants peace while Smith desires destruction. Smith’s desire to destroy is without reason. Smith could be viewed as a shadow Magician and shadow Ruler, as he attempts to turn all positive into negative. Neo follows his path because it is what he believes. Smith simply acts without thought or comprehension of an end result. At the end of the entire Matrix Trilogy, peace is only restored once both good and evil is destroyed. Neo understands that through his understanding, he has the ability to achieve his goal of peace, giving up his life for others; that is a true hero.

Trinity symbolizes archetypes of the Lover and Caregiver.  She helps Neo access knowledge within himself, while at the same displaying unconditional love for the One. He became the One because of her powerful love. If not for her love, Neo would have died at the hands of Agent Smith in the hallway at the end of the film. His transformation and resurrection was a direct result of her love. Upon his resurrection, his vision became clear. She is the Spirit, divine force behind the One, and their union is unbreakable.

Morpheus represents a mix of the Seeker and Sage. He searches for the One, seeking out elements to create a better life for himself and others. He wants to achieve what he believes. He becomes wise due to his experiences and uses this wisdom in an effort to save humanity. He encourages Neo to develop a clarity of vision and to act in accordance with his beliefs. He wants to “free his mind.”

Morpheus believes without question that a Messiah exists and that it is his destiny to locate this being. He inspires with his words of wisdom. He found the One and trusts in Zion’s safe future. He possesses absolute conviction about his beliefs. He spoke of a prophecy he trusts in and prepared those around him for the arrival of the One so when he came, they would be prepared to receive him. Perhaps Morpheus’ purpose is to subconsciously care for the inhabitants of Zion though a message that could potentially be false.

The Oracle represents one side of the Creator. She represents love, guidance, and compassion. Her intent seems to be to aid mankind in finding purpose in their lives, especially Neo. She is also a source of hope for Morpheus. She informed him that he would find the One, and through this belief and faith, he fulfilled that prophecy.

The Oracle could also be seen as a Sage, possessing a pronounced wisdom that helps people discover why things happen. She represents femininity through her temperate, slow manor. She is viewed in the form of a woman living in a housing project, enjoying the simplicities of life. She speaks compassionately, as she is abstract. She is mythical, with a sense of humor. She understands the importance of machines and humans living in peace, and acts in accordance with this understanding.

The Oracle is the true heroine in the film. She risks all she knows in order to preserve peace. Once it is clear to her that Neo believes in lasting peace, she gives him an opportunity to achieve this idea. She is motivated by pure love. She loves the creation that is the Matrix, as well as humans existing alongside the machines. She believes fondly in peace and guides all aspects of making peace possible. She believes in Neo and trusts in him to make a sacrifice for the greater good of society. She never truly knows the outcome of others decisions, but simply believes.

 

References

Cavagna, Carlo. "The Matrix (1999)." AboutFilm.com. 1999. AboutFilm.com. 

<http://www.aboutfilm.com/movies/m/matrix-anlys.htm>.

Gardner, John. Grendel. U.S.A.: Knopf, 1971.

The Matrix. Dir. Andy & Larry Wachowski. Perfs. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, 

Hugo Weaving. Croucho II Film Partnership, 1999.

"The Matrix." The Matrix 101. 2008. The Matrix 101. <http://www.thematrix101.com/matrix/>.

Pearson, Carol. Awakening the Heroes Within. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991.

"The Roots of the Matrix." 29 Jan 2008. YouTube.com. 

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AG4rlGkCRU>.


Toy Zone Australia: Playing for Time Case Analysis
Toy Zone Australia: Playing for Time Case Analysis
Friday, August 7, 2009

Based on my diagnostics, I have extrapolated three primary issues that must be addressed when considering how to achieve Toy Zone’s short and long term objectives: Communication and resistance to change, implementation of technology and unreliability (measuring change), and beyond implementation. 

Pickering is trying to make a quick switch from the old to the new system (organization-wide and rapid change). The introduction of so many plans for change in such a small time frame has become too complex and, as a result, employee structure, morale, and operational effectiveness has been significantly reduced. The timeline for change must be increased beyond 18 months and the budget must be more than $15 million. More money and time will be required to alter the environment and perspectives of the company, as well as effectively implement change.

Even though a time-effective change is cost effective, I recommend we begin running parallel systems. The benefits of this will outweigh the increased costs. Employees can be assured the new system functions correctly, while the old system serves as a back-up in case the new implementation fails. There could be potential collaboration between systems and significantly help with continued operations of the firm. Also, management will be less resistant to change, as the “old school” and clan-cultured employees will be allowed to slowly convert to the new system. They will feel less pressured, increasing morale and encouraging confidence in the potential new, rigid and accountable culture. Lastly, a decrease in employee turnover should result.

Because of ineffective implementation techniques, we are now stuck with multiple plans (i.e. change culture, new management, close manufacturing units, outsource production, etc.). Pickering has been faced with poor sponsorship, high resistance from employees, conflict with employees (disciplining a sales manager), and a lack of change management expertise. We must avoid trying to make a few quick changes in a vain attempt to save the project. We must measure quality improvement and cost reduction as our goals while measuring progress. We will use incremental success and slowly complete smaller projects with higher rates of success. The labour-intensive use of consultants must be converted to leveraged use, as the project has become too complex and expensive. We can then begin to train employees more effectively, working with the people who will be using the new system, rather than doing all of the work and not planning for the integration in the business.

Employees, such as the insufficiently trained sales team, must be trained and educated three different times during the implementation process. They must be made aware that they were to begin to focus on changing customer perceptions and service excellence. This is good because customer and user perceptions are sometimes overlooked by management. Inform employees of the implementation of electronic devices to improve communication between the sales force and support office. Educate them about communication skills and how the improvement in communication between departments will lead to increased success of the business. Next, focus on specific training of the new technology to be introduced that will improve the company’s infrastructure (e.g. a new ERP system). Finally, conduct advanced training to make employees aware of how to take positive advantage of the new technology.

Using organizational control theory, I have concluded that Toy Zone’s current state is consistent with Cell 4 (Figure 8.1 Carlopio, 143). Unreliable information via an ineffective ERP system is significantly inhibiting management’s ability to properly measure time, costs, quality, and scope of the implementation. There is also a lack of a clear definition of the behaviours required by employees to complete the new project. We must focus on managing the inputs of our implementation; most importantly training and education. When we increase the quality of inputs, we increase the quality of our results.

Pickering has relied on the recruitment of highly qualified and experienced individuals who are technically sound due to concerns about the work ethic, training, and focus of employees. This is good in the sense that there is currently no way to rationally measure the work of the company, so these types of people can assure us of having an able and committed set of people. However, we must, again, begin to “rely on training, socialization and a ‘clan-like’ culture to help ensure those involved develop and display the attitudes, values, and beliefs (Carlopio, 146)” that will lead to the success of the business. We should allow the new managers to work with old managers, fostering a common ground where both types of people can collaborate and achieve goals linked throughout the business. Moving back to a ‘clan-like’ environment will allow current staff to commit to the change process and interact in a way that will increase value of the organization. So, I recommend we cease action to change the culture of Toy Zone into a rigid and formal culture, as it has resulted in extremely high employee turnover (which is very costly when referencing Exhibit 8.2 Carlopio, 149), conflict, varying goals and low morale.

Because current goals and strategies are extremely varied throughout the firm, we can use the balanced scorecard to properly measure the smaller-scale operational activities alignment with larger-scale goals. Manager’s attention will become more focused on the issues and management will be involved with implementing the new strategy. We must inform and reinforce to employees that we want to close certain manufacturing units, outsource aspects of production and revitalize the sales force. We then must communicate and sync these goals with department and individual objectives. 

Pickering made a mistake by pushing staff beyond their abilities and adjusting sales target numbers; which led to a loss of highly valuable and experienced employees. We can’t only offer financial incentives tied to our short-term financial goals. Restructuring and diversifying the incentive system and commission structures for the sales team, as well as implementing a balanced scorecard management system will allow for long-term strategy understanding by managers at all levels, simultaneously aligning departmental and individual goals.

As stated above, most of what we can currently control about the implementation of Toy Zone’s strategy involves the inputs of the process. Therefore, feedback is an extremely important component that will allow us to consider the results of the implementation that affects the inputs. Feedback from managers will allow us to learn the positives and negatives of our system, concurrently giving managers some control over the process. This would allow for control and evolution of the system, learning from mistakes made during implementation, and most importantly encourage change as a team effort. Management, as a whole, must be pushed to continually measure all aspects of the business (individually, organization-wide, financially, customer-related, etc.), compare these results to our desired goals as a company, and adjust.

Measuring the management of the business will increase the likelihood of success. We must ensure that our strategy is communicated throughout the firm. Pickering has correctly indentified communication as a vital tool to the success of the new strategy. We should continue to hold meetings with management in order to effectively communicate our goals, keep them aligned throughout the company, and generate useful feedback. Also, we should continue to encourage teamwork and cooperation between new and old management that can be measured. If we can translate our vision and goals into terms management can understand and measure, we can then enforce the specifics that Pickering desires.

The enforcement of the idea that communication is key to successful change has been, and will continue to be, a useful theme throughout the implementation process. Weekly meetings with management, the ‘information blitz’, newsletter of achievements, new and future plans, an induction course, and quarterly prizes for excelling employees are all actions I recommend we continue. Without effective communication we can’t grow as a company. 

More trust equals greater commitment and innovativeness of our departments. Increasing trust will lead to greater employee confidence, commitment, creativity, and innovativeness. Both internal and external stakeholders will extremely benefit from trust within our organization. Though Pickering is extremely detail oriented and prefers to keep tight control over communication with employees, we should do less monitoring and more encouraging of employee enthusiasm to influence innovation.

Seeking out an external agent “to obtain independent evidence of problems with the existing course of action and to clarify its magnitude” (Carlopio, 160) was a beneficial move made by Pickering for the firm. We can’t cancel some of the existing projects to alter the company’s infrastructure without an alternative (alternative discussed above). We must avoid complete termination of the project via convenience to avoid conflict within management (e.g. blame for failure). The truth about the current state of the business must be relayed throughout the firm.

Now that we have identified problems and solutions with the implementation process, we can discuss plans for evolution of our new processes. We can launch small experiments throughout the organization that allow us to manage these multiple strategies and measure them over time. Pickering’s desire to revert to a mechanistic, traditional, top-down strategy inhibits the ability of our company to innovate and learn. So, we must begin to experiment and use rapid learning to stimulate improvement, innovation, and learning of our implementation.

A strategic community would best fit our company. It will allow for better management of our infrastructure while providing “high-quality, validated solutions to issues; handle unstructured problems; and deal with the never-ending new developments in hardware and software” (Carlopio, 167). This community will also allow for more effective communication and shared knowledge between our departments. Our long-term performance will be positively affected by this type of community because of the increased learning and development. Also, we are currently leaning towards the development of a non-rational system that is chaotic and irrational, whereas we want a non-linear system which involves feedback from our outputs that affect our inputs and processes.

“Now that business is so complex we must simplify” (Carlopio, 176). Thus, we must move away from the complex implications of implementing a change process and new technology and simplify by using simple rules and processes that will spread throughout the firm. Management will be able to more effectively make decisions that are consistent with personal and overall goals if we can communicate a simplified corporate strategy. I believe the implementation of how-to-rules (key points on how to execute our goals), timing rules (sync timeframes throughout the company), and exit rules (if one department fails, we all fail) are strategic rules we should implement to drive our company’s strategy. Using the two-stage process for developing these strategic rules (Carlopio, 181), we can develop principles and generate rules that will aid employees in achieving our strategic goals.

I believe if we follow these recommendations and change plan, the short-term and long-term goals of individual employees and the organisation will be achieved.

 

References

Carlopio, James. Changing Gears: The Strategic Implementation of Technology. Great Britain: Creative Print & Design (Wales), 2003. Print.

 

Share Repurchases
Share Repurchases
Friday, May 1, 2009

Introduction

In some countries, such as the U.S., companies are allowed the option to buy back their own stock. This action is known as a share repurchase or buyback. A share repurchase allows existing shareholders to receive cash in exchange for a fraction of the corporation’s outstanding equity (i.e. shares). Ultimately, the number of shares outstanding decreases in exchange for cash. After a repurchase occurs, the firm possesses the option to suppress the shares or maintain them in reacquired stock (treasury stock); made available to re-issue as shares in equity. The United States has an open market, private negotiations (between firms and their shareholders), repurchase put rights (buying back the right to sell a share at a strike price), and self-tender repurchases. Self-tender repurchases are classified in two categories: Dutch auction and fixed price tender offers. 

There are alternative types of buy-backs. A selective buy-back occurs when offers are made to selected shareholders in the company. This type of buy-back must first be approved by all shareholders or a 75% majority (specialty resolution). Selling shareholders have the option to vote against a special resolution that would advocate a selective repurchase. Also, shares held for or by employees within a corporation may be repurchased by the firm. This employee share scheme buy-back beseeches an ordinary resolution. On-market buy-backs occur when a company repurchases its shares during trading on the stock exchange. However, this can only be executed once an ordinary resolution over the 10/12 limit is passed . Finally, a company listed on the stock exchange has the option of a minimum holding buy-back, wherein a firm buys unmarketable bundles of shares from shareholders. These purchased shares must be cancelled, but it does not demand a resolution.

There lays both advantages and disadvantages when a firm employs share repurchase options. Within these pros and cons lies diversified motivations and opportunities. Such will be discussed throughout the article.

Explaining Method of Stock Repurchasing

Ninety-five percent of all repurchases that occur in the U.S. are open-market stock repurchases. A corporation has the option of whether or not they announce their intent to repurchase shares in the open market. Conditions in the market decrees and sustains the option of how much, when, and whether or not to repurchase. These open-market buy-backs can last years. Conversely, daily repurchase limits restrain the amount of stock that can be bought over a given time period.

Fixed price tender offer buy-backs were once the only form of tender offer carried out using a fixed price. In 1981, Dutch auction share buy-backs were introduced as a surrogate form of tender offer. This form was first implemented by Todd Shipyards.

Fixed price tender offers determine, with public acknowledgement, an especial purchase price, the length of the offer, and the number of shares desired. It is possible for the offer to be made conditional upon the acquisition of a minimal amount of shares. In addition, it may allow removal of tendered shares before the expiration date of the offer. If shareholders decide to take part in the offer, they must also decide the amount of shares to delegate to the corporation at a certain price. 

Dutch auction offers delegate a range of prices wherein the shares will eventually be bought. Shareholders have the option to tender their stock at any price within the given range of prices. The lowest price which enables the company to purchase the amount of shares desired is classified as the purchase price. Investors who tendered equal to or less than that price are paid the purchase price by the company. It not enough shares are tendered, the offer is either aborted or all tendered shares are repurchased at the highest price within the price range.

Motivation behind repurchasing shares vary, as the exact reasons for the decision to buy back stock are usually never made known to a common investor. Over the past few decades, we have seen investors begin to question motives behind repurchasing as a way of generating shareholder value. The question is whether or not share repurchasing is one of the most beneficial ways a company can spend capital.

Benefits of Share Repurchasing

Share repurchasing aids in closing the hole between value and price. Big repurchase programs usually have an impact of helping the price coverage on the underlying value earlier. This is a vital tool used by active investors to aid in the realization of the value of their investments.

When a corporation announces that a share repurchase is occurring, management is indicating that the stock is undervalued and they believe in future cash flow growth. This could raise the share price in a significant way, as potential growth is a vital tool used in the valuation of a firm.

Repurchasing stock generates a comfy price backing surface for investors. This holds especially true in environments similar to our current market (recession & bear market conditions). An enormous stock buy-back program generates excessive stock price aid that can be used as a safety line for investors in the firm.

Repurchasing shares can be improved by using cash from the issuance of debt.  Extra cash held by a firm is not freely available for any use by the company. Shareholders claim ownership of the cash, and they expect good returns on equity investments.

By using debt issuances with interest rates below the cost of equity to repurchase shares, the firm’s leverage magnifies and the cost of capital decreases. Thus, return on capital invested by shareholders increases.  Also, savings on taxes transforms into an increased share price, as interest expenses paid on the debt can be tax deduced.

Repurchasing stocks translates into a decrease in outstanding shares. This creates an increase in earnings per share, all else equal. A high EPS indicates high profitability per shareholder. However, this ratio does not take in to consideration future cash flows and cost of capital, both of which create shareholder value.

Downfalls of Share Repurchasing

Vital to the success of firms are a cautiously selected system with rewards based on performance. So, management’s incentive to boost a firm’s stock price could lead to tampering of the numbers in an effort to increase stock value and receive bonuses.

Repurchasing shares could have a similar effect. Increased earnings per share, return on assets, and a reduced P/E ratio are all derived from the reduction in shares outstanding. Therefore, the firm’s management would have earned their bonuses at the shareholder’s cost. Warren Buffet has been noted on multiple occasions that he believes employee stock option programs and repurchase programs can be quite shady. Repurchasing their own shares allows investors to believe their shares are increasing in value (EPS stays undiluted); when in fact the share value is artificially inflated. So, insiders may quickly sell their stock and allow individual investors to purchase at higher levels because of the inflated price the shares now hold. However, long-term price have not been linked to share repurchases, but significantly affect short-term stocks.

Every now and then, firms could be lacking in exploration of alternative means of using excess cash. A decision must be made on whether or not the corporation can earn a higher return investing elsewhere. If a dollar earned by a company does not increase the firm’s value by as much, shareholders should have cash returned to them so they may explore other investments. 

However, it is important to keep in mind that every business situation is different. Firms may elect to retain a large portion of earnings because it is considered humiliating for a company to reduce dividends, even if they can’t profitably invest the excess cash. Investors react more adversely to a dividend cut than the withdrawal of a repurchase program. So, instead of increasing and reducing dividend payouts during periods of excess and low cash, respectively, corporations distribute conservative amounts of earnings in an effort to maintain an acceptable payout rate.

Conclusion

The common thought over the past few decades has been that it’s beneficial when a company desires to invest in itself. However, questions have been raised recently over the credibility and motives behind share buy-back programs. There’s no answer for whether or not a repurchase program will benefit or hurt a stock. Each situation is different.

As both an individual investor and a company, it is essential to understand what a repurchase program can mean for a firm company-wide. If a firm has announced a share repurchase plan, analyze the company’s financial standing. A cultured, financially healthy firm with strong dividends is likely to have increasing company and shareholder value in mind when repurchasing their own stock. Conversely, a company that announces a share buy-back while in poor financial standing with decreased earnings should be considered with more caution. In the event of a stock repurchase announcement, take a careful look at the firm involved preceding a final decision on what it may mean for the stock in the near future.

 

References

1 The 10/12 limit refers to ASIC's requirement that companies buy back no more than 10% of the voting rights in the company within 12 months

2 Bagwell, Laurie Simon and John Shoven, "Cash Distributions to Shareholders" 1989, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 3 No. 3, Summer, 129-140. 

3 Bagwell, Laurie Simon, "Dutch Auction Repurchases: An Analysis of Shareholder Heterogeneity" 1992, Journal of Finance, Vol. 47, No. 1, page 71-105. 

Bill Parish, Microsoft Financial Pyramid, Parish & Company, November 17, 1999. 

4 Jonathan Stempel, Buffett Calls Dexter Shoe His Worst Deal Ever, Thomson Reuters, February 29, 2008. 

Justin Pettit, “Is a Share Buyback Right for Your Company?” Harvard Business Review, April 2001. 

Richard Dobbs & Werner Rehm, The Value of Share Buybacks, The McKinsey Quarterly - McKinsey & Co., September 20, 2005. 

Rob Landley, Why Microsoft’s Stock Options Scare Me, The Motley Fool, February 17, 2000. 

"Share Repurchase." Investopedia. Forbes. 27 Jul 2009 <http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/sharerepurchase.asp>.

"Share Repurchase Programs." About.com: Investing for Beginners. The New York Times Company. 27 Jul 2009 <http://beginnersinvest.about.com/cs/investinglessons/l/blsharerepurcha.htm>.

Todd Bishop, Microsoft to End Stock Options For Employees, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 8, 2003. 

Weinschenk, Matthew. "Share Buybacks: Why Companies Buy Back Shares and Which Ones Are Doing It Right." 12 Dec 2007. Investment U. 27 Jul 2009 <http://www.investmentu.com/IUEL/2007/December/share-buybacks.html>.


Isotretinoin (Accutane) Analysis
Isotretinoin (Accutane) Analysis
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Overview

Isotretinoin, also known as Accutane, is a medication mainly used to treat harsh acne. Isotretinoin can also be used as a chemotherapy medication to treat skin cancer. A form of skin disease it can treat is keratosis diffusa fetalis, which is present at birth and is distinguished by a thickening layer of the keratin in fetal human skin. Since isotretinoin comes from Vitamin A and is located naturally in the human body, it is classified as a retinoid. The oral version of isotretinoin is marketed under numerous trade names, the most common one being Accutane.

The IUPAC name of isotretinoin is (2Z,4E,6E,8E)-3,7-dimethyl-9-(2,6,6-trimethyl-1-cyclohexenyl)nona-2,4,6,8-tetraenoic acid. It can be identified using a CAS number (4759-48-2), ATC code (D10AD04), PubChem code (5282379), and DrugBank code (APRD00140). The chemical formula for isotretinoin is C20H28O2. It weights 300.44 g/mol. Some pharmacokinetic data includes; the drug’s variable bioavailability, a 99.9% protein binding, hepatic metabolism, half life of 10-20 hours, and renal and fecal excretion (RxList).  A structural diagram of isotretinoin is displayed below (RxList):

accutane1

Usually, four to five months of Accutane use will result in cleared acne. The medication is potent and is effective with all types of breakouts. Accutane should only be used for severe or long lasting acne that does not respond to use of creams or antibiotics. Isotretinoin can be safer than long term antibiotic use even though the drug has numerous side effects. Over two million people have used Accutane, therefore its safety and effectiveness is well documented (A.O.C.D.).

History and Background

Before isotretinoin was developed, the main treatment for ruthless acne was antibiotics such as erythromycin or tetracyclines. While these drugs have been useful, their effectiveness is limited to only fighting against the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria. Eventually, strains of the bacteria became more resistant to the antibiotics, causing the antibiotics to be less effective. 

High doses of the fat-soluable Vitamin A were an early and efficient way of treating acne. While large doses of Vitamin A have the same effects as Accutane, it is harmful because of tissue build up. Vitamin A already present in the bloodstream forms Accutane naturally in the body. This is why large amounts of Vitamin A can cause the same birth defects as Accutane. Luckily, the body is able to quickly remove Accutane from the body because it is naturally present (A.O.C.D.).

High doses of isotretinoin result in high toxicity, similar to Vitamin A toxicity; the higher the dose, the more severe the side effects. The most Vitamin A that should be taken at one time is 3 milligrams. At this dose, there are no side effects for Vitamin A. Isotretinoin is available in 2.5mg capsules (also 5mg, 10mg, 20mg, and 40mg). Although, isotretinoin causes birth defects more than Vitamin A does at similar doses (Accutane Online).

The development of isotretinoin was released in 1982 by Hoffmann-La Roche. This was a significant step forward in the treatment of acne. The synthetic compound resulted in few side effects as well as a superior therapeutic benefit than Vitamin A. A study funded by Roche in 1984 caused high doses of the drug to become main stream in treatment. Independent research indicated that lower dosages were effective in treatment, but Roche's dosage recommendations continued to be used (“History”). Roche’s patents for isotretinoin expired in early 2002, which led to the development of cheaper generic versions of the drug by numerous companies (Brennan).

Currently, isotretinoin is only used after other acne products have failed to produce positive results. Usually, acne treatment starts with medications like adapelene. The next stage is oral antibiotics, and lastly isotretinoin therapy. Other treatments are less effective, but related to less severe side effects at lower costs. The higher costs are due to a higher dosage. Using any substance that has a toxic level requires medical regulation. Another factor is the cost of the medicine (e.g. taking 10mg daily is less expensive than taking 80mg daily).

Disfiguring birth defects or malformation potential were related to the drug ever since its creation, so taking the drug while pregnant is strongly discouraged. When a person who was pregnant took the drug, it was found to have approximately 30% rates of congenital malformation, versus a 3-5% baseline risk (Bérard). Prescriptions of the drug became under analysis starting in 1998, as less than half of the prescribers were being tested for pregnancy, typically relying on less sensitive urine tests (Holmes). The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) instituted restrictions on prescribing and dispersing the drug with the “System to Manage Accutane Related Teratogenicity” (SMART) in 2000 and the iPLEDGE program in 2006, which prevents the use of a drug containing isotretinoin during pregnancy due to resulting birth defects. These laws were based on the grounds that women who took the drug while pregnant were underreported by Roche between 1982 and 2000, and that once generic manufacturers entered the market, risk management was no longer centralized (Woodcock). A study found that pregnancy rates were high during this period, finding that one in every 30 women were pregnant per year, but 84% of pregnancies were ended by induced abortion (Bérard).

Pharmacodynamics

Isotretinoin clearly shrinks the sebaceous glands (located in the skin of mammals) and reduces the production of sebum (made of lipids and debris of dead fat-producing cells). It stabilizes keratinization and prevents the formation of blackhead pimples. Isotretinoin works by altering the synthesis of RNA under the direction of DNA (DNA transcription), similar to other retinoids (DrugBank). This reduces the output and size of the sebaceous gland, making the cells that are molted off into the sebaceous glands less sticky, and in turn decreasing the ability to form blackheads.

Approximately 50% of people that take Accutane are cured so that they no longer require treatment for acne. Although, in the first couple weeks of treatment, about one in five patients get worse, where as one in 500 patients get extremely worse. However, it is the most effective drug when treating severe acne. Normally, a patient only need to use Accutane for four to six months, but the patients who need to be retreated receive up to 12 months of total treatment.

Blood fat levels may be increased due to the use of Accutane; some times to risky levels. However, when use of the drug is stopped, the fat levels revert back to normal. Sometimes, it may even affect the liver. This is why regular blood tests are necessary during Accutane treatment. Risk of damage is extremely low if these precautions are honored (A.O.C.D.).

Pharmacokinetics

When isotretinoin is taken orally, it is best absorbed with a high fat meal because of the chemical compound’s high level of ability to dissolve fats, lipids, oils, and non-polar solvents (also known as lipophilicity). A crossover study found that the peak plasma concentration more than doubled when taken after a high fat meal compared to on an empty stomach. Isotretinoin is mainly attached to plasma proteins, namely albumin. In human plasma, after orally taking isotretinoin, at least three metabolites have been detected (retinoic acid, 4-oxo-retinoic acid, 4-oxo-isotretinoin). In addition, isotretinoin irreversibly oxidizes to 4-oxo-isotretinoin. The metabolites of isotretinoin are excreted through urine and feces. The average biological half-life is 21 hours, with a standard deviation of 8.2 hours (W.A. Colburn).

A greater chance of a cure is present when a patient takes increasingly more Accutane. Sadly, adverse effects depend on the dosage level. Almost no side effects occur at a low level, whereas high doses result in more unpleasant side effects related to the drying effects on the oil glands. A balance between effectiveness and side effects results from an adjusted dose (A.O.C.D.).

The following table is the Pharmacokinetic Parameters of Isotretinoin Mean (%CV), N=74:

accutane2

Adverse Effects

Over the past 20 years, Accutane has caused a vast number of dangerous, sometimes life threatening side effects. Since the active ingredient in Accutane is Vitamin A, effects of the drug are similar to that of large amounts of Vitamin A. When taken in excessive amounts, Vitamin A can cause damage to the body. Therefore, side effects of Accutane are similar to that of a Vitamin A overdose (Rossi).

There are different levels of reaction to the drug. Some of these reactions, as well as the percentage of people who experience the negative side effects, include: Chapped lips (90%), countered by a using Vaseline or Aquaphor as a lip moisturizer; Dry skin and itching (80%) helped by frequent moisturizer creams; Dryness of nose, mild nosebleed (80%), helped by "AYR nasal gel"; Irritation of the eyelids and eyes (40%), joint and muscle pains (15%), temporary hair thinning (10%), rash (7%), intestinal symptoms (5%), urinary symptoms (5%), headache (5%), increased sensitivity to sun (5%), decreased night vision (<1%), depression, and thoughts of suicide (<1%) (A.O.C.D.).

Some have advocated that Vitamin E supplements can reduce high-dose retinoid’s toxicity without decreasing drug effectiveness. However, tests have been done that prove this to be false (Kus). Also, patients who are being treated by isotretinoin are not allowed to donate blood for at least one month after therapy has stopped. This is due to reports of birth defects to unborn children.

Birth Defects

Isotretinoin is a teratogen, and causes the most damaging side effect if taken while pregnant; birth deficiency. It is vital that women do not take Accutane or any drug containing isotretinoin while pregnant. Common birth defects that result from use of the drug during pregnancy are missing earlobes, visual and hearing impairment, mental retardation, and facial deformity. Isotretinoin is classified as ADEC Category X and FDA Pregnancy Category X, as use is contraindicated in pregnancy (Klasco).

The manufacturer recommends that pregnancy not be present in female subjects two weeks before using isotretinoin. Also, effective contraception should be used during treatment, as well as for at least one month pre and post-therapy (Roche). Between 1982 and 2003, more than 2,000 women became pregnant while using the drug; most resulting in miscarriage or abortion. Approximately 160 of these babies were born with birth defects. Therefore, on August 12, 2005, the FDA introduced the iPLEDGE program in an effort to make sure females don’t become pregnant while using isotretinoin (iPLEDGE).

Depression

A possible link to clinical depression through isotretinoin has been suggested by numerous studies (O’Donnell/Bremner). However, there is no factual evidence. Some lawsuits have been won because of the argument that isotretinoin causes suicide and depression and is in part responsible for the strict control of the drug in America. Reports of depression, thoughts of suicide, and attempted suicide in isotretinoin treated patients have been reported by the FDA Adverse Events Reporting System. Of the 431 cases reported between 1982 and May 2001, 37 patients had committed suicide (Wysowski). No underlying relationship been established and further studies are necessary, while analyses have suggested a connection between isotretinoin therapy and depression (Schweitzer/Hull). 

Studies have displayed that people who are eligible for isotretinoin treatment because of acne have an increased risk of clinical depression compared to the general population (Gupta/Niemeier). Chee Hong claims that anxiety can produce acne and depression, which in turn creates more anxiety. He describes depression due to isotretinoin use as “an idiosyncratic side-effect (Chee Hong).” Also, it has been shown that isotretinoin treatment for severe acne reduces depression and anxiety, for tests have shown acne to be a major depressant in most tested subject’s lives (Rubinow/Chia). A study using positron emission tomography (PET) displayed changes in brain imaging of patients who used the drug, but the relevance of this discovery is unknown (Bremner).

Personal Experience and Conclusion

While growing up, I experienced severe acne. I consulted a dermatologist my freshman year in high school and he recommended Accutane. My family and I were made well aware of the dangers of Accutane, as we had to read a plethora of material and sign numerous forms. I was young and largely following my parents advice. While creams and moisturizers were failing, insecurity was resulting from my acne problem; so I was desperate to try anything that would clear up my skin.

I did not experience many severe side effects at the time. All that occurred was my skin became extremely dry and my lips were frequently chapped. Also, I avoided sunlight because of warning from my doctor. Besides these generally common side effects, I had no problems with the drug. I was extremely happy with the results, as my face and skin cleared up within six months of commencing treatment.

I would not recommend Accutane or other forms of isotretinoin treatment to others who qualify, as it is apparent that it is dangerous to those who may have depression problems, and now that I'm grown up, I don't believe in taking man-made chemicals for reasons like acne. My parents could have helped me work through self-conscious parts of my being instead of turning to a drug for a solution. What also concerns me is that a study showed altered brain images in patients after use of isotretinoin, which may indicate long term side effects. However, with the current technology and advancements in medicine in the U.S., it's possible there may be a time where I would comfortable with the use of isotretinoin as a treatment for severe acne. But it doesn't seem that the benefits of the drug outweigh the negatives.

 

References

"Accutane." American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. A.O.C.D.. 30 Apr 2008 

"About iPLEDGE." iPLEDGE: Committed to Pregnancy Prevention. iPLEDGE. 30 Apr 2008 

"Accutane (Isotretinoin)." RxList: The Internet Drug Index. 2008. Warner-Lambert Company LLC. 30 Apr 2008 

"Accutane: What is it?." Accutane Online. 02 APR 2008. 30 Apr 2008

Bérard A, Azoulay L, Koren G, Blais L, Perreault S, Oraichi D (2007). "Isotretinoin, pregnancies, abortions and birth defects: a population-based perspective". British journal of clinical pharmacology 63 (2): 196-205.

Bremner JD. Does isotretinoin cause depression and suicide? Psychopharmacol Bull 2003;37(1):64-78.

Bremner JD, Fani N, Ashraf A, Votaw JR, Brummer ME, Cummins T, et al. Functional brain imaging alterations in acne patients treated with isotretinoin. Am J Psychiatry 2005;162(5):983-91.

Brennan, Lisa. "N.J. Jury Assesses $2.62M Against Roche in Accutane Trial." New Jersey Law Journal 07 JUN 2007

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Bowling for Columbine Reflection
Bowling for Columbine Reflection
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

America is a violent society. An unanswered question offered throughout the documentary is, “why is America the nation with the most gun-related deaths?” No concrete answer to this question is offered. Suggestion reasons such as the United States’ violent history, or that America traffics more weapons than any other country are not necessarily the cause of society’s continued violence. Agents of socialization such as the media, school, and peers influence the way people act. Bullets and guns are easily accessible, semi-automatic “hunting” guns are rarely used to kill game, and kids are becoming increasingly exposed to crime. Meanwhile, the media continues to pump society full of fear. Insecurity among Americans has become common, and while we seek an answer to the resulting violence, we need only glance in a mirror. I agree with Michael Moore that America has become a nation of fear. 

The Michigan militia stated that, “This is an American tradition, it is an American responsibility to be armed, if you’re not armed you’re not responsible, who is gonna defend your kids?” They view the Police as the middleman. Family is important to many Americans, and in the time it takes to phone the authorities when a family member or friend is being attacked, the crime most likely will already be committed. It is difficult for the government to look after each individual in the United States, so it is reasonable for citizens to own a means of defense. However, I do not agree with the idea that it is the duty of Americans to own a gun. Problems can be solved without the use of force. Canada has roughly seven million guns, yet they do not commit anywhere near the amount of gun related crime that is present in America. They leave their doors unlocked and watch newscasts that talk about problems mainly related to the economy rather than crime. Canadians don’t live in a “culture of fear.”

Terry Nichols’ brother stated that if the government turns radical then the people must revolt with anger. He made this statement as if there was no other solution. When offered another way by Michael Moore, using Gandhi as an example of a peaceful overthrow, Nichols suggested he was not familiar with this approach. The idea of violence as a solution should not be evolving. Numerous conflicts can be resolved with negotiation and reason. The media, among other influences, have successfully burned an image into the minds of Americans that problems get solved with violence. Violence should be recognized as a detriment to society rather than a solution to disputes.

Children are raised in an environment surrounded by guns and violence. The documentary showed clips of a carnival game named “Shoot the Geek,” where the objective was to use a gun to “kill” the supposed nerd popping out from behind objects. This negatively influences kids to pick on stereotypical nerds, as well as use guns. I don’t believe crime would happen so often if society didn’t place the idea of gun violence in people’s heads. In addition, this game supports the idea that being a geek is bad. A geek can be classified as an extremely intellectual human being. To support conformity against a person who is gifted is wrong. All men are created equal.

The United States advocates the use of force and violence to fulfill goals. We celebrate bloodshed by placing war weapons such as bombers on display. The film suggests that the U.S. government put money towards training Osama bin Laden’s men, supporting military coups, and creating pathways for dictators to assume power. Above all, the U.S. gave billions of dollars in money and weapons to people like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan so they could invade neighboring enemies. For example, the government gave weapons to Iran for the purpose of invading Iraq. What resulted from our offerings to countries like Afghanistan was an attack on our own country. We essentially made it possible for foreign countries to devise and fund a plan that would stun our society. In essence, we funded attacks on ourselves. Bombing countries when we do not agree with their stance on issues is immoral. We do not control the world, we control ourselves. Without a promotion of hostility from America, the world may be a more peaceful place.

Conforming is a virtual requirement in today’s society. People develop into who they are due to symbolic interactionism. Fear of failure is an idea that is conveyed to children. Teachers actively communicate the message that if you do not succeed at a very young age, you will fail to succeed later on in life. It has become normal that if a child does not do well in school or deviate from the social norms, folkways, mores, or taboos, he or she will be labeled an outcast. This results in the creation of social groups. These groups basically consist of conformists and non-conformists; wherein the conformists sometimes tease the non-conformists to the point of, in the case of Columbine High School, murder. Society does not listen to those that chose to not conform or be independent. Listening to those who are different, as Marilyn Manson said, can lead to saved lives.

When tragedies occur, society looks for someone or something to blame; whether it be music, parents, television, video games, etc. I found it ridiculous that Marilyn Manson was being blamed for the Columbine incident. Manson could be viewed as a poster boy for norm deviation. He acts how desires, not worrying about how others view his actions. I think the idea that you should live how you want should be admired, as it currently seems to be a rare commodity, which is ironic considering America is the “land of the free.” The notion that we are free to act and do as we chose is false considering that certain socialization is almost required to be socially accepted. 

I agree with the idea that the media instills fear in society, resulting in increased consumption. The film offers a statistic that while the murder rate in the U.S. is down 20%, news and media coverage on the subject is up 600%. So, while crime rates are dropping, fear of crime has increased. The media chooses to report violence and hazards more than any other subject. They heed warning to virtually every seemingly dangerous item existing in society (escalators, sidewalks, etc.). These warnings cause viewers to be afraid and cautious of what is being reported. They take measures to avoid being hurt or affected by the reported “problem.” This increased consumption leads to the increased success of businesses and business owners, as the demand for commodities like alarm systems and guns increase. Thus, the increase of fear leads to increased consumption, which in turn leads to an increase in profit.

Truth lies in the statement that a violent past does not necessarily lead to a violent future. Once violent societies in Germany and France have currently less than 400 gun related deaths per year. This is a terribly low number compared to the approximately 11,000 gun related deaths in America. Why is America’s homicide rate significantly higher than any other country’s? Because killing is the result of fear. Society is so concerned with all of the things that may go wrong during the day, that the instant a remotely significant threat is posed to a citizen; he or she is prepared to defend themselves with deadly force and without rationalization. The media manifests this fear because then continually portray the negative and harmful side of society on the news. Also, the news reported that negatively affects the economy are rarely things such as pollution or global warming, it is nearly always murder and mayhem.

Fear in America supposedly began when the Pilgrims arrived in America. Michael Moore creatively displays a brief history of America in a creative cartoon that shows how white people use guns as a means of unneeded protection against blacks and those of different race. The media actively suggests blacks as criminals in shows like Cops. When a black man commits a crime, he is immediately a top news story. The media has expressed the idea that black means trouble. Michael Moore offers examples like “Africanized” killer bees that present the image that whites are afraid of difference. The “Africanized” bees are a bit more violent than “normal” bees. Thus, suggesting that blacks are more violent than “normal” people; an absurd ideology, as the color of a person’s skin does not define them as a person.

I believe the documentary is an eye-opener for American society. Different is not wrong. Deviation from norms may ultimately benefit society as a whole. Many of the people who are considered “different” are extremely successful if they can overcome criticism that they receive from society. If the media continues to instill fear in the minds of Americans, we will continue to suffer the consequences (death, war, feat, etc.). Promoting a peaceful society should be the general goal of a newscast, not entertaining the public with ideas of death and destruction.  Guns need to be regulated and people need to listen to other members of society. The one thing many Americans crave is to be understood by another human being. I believe if one person could have understood the assassins at Columbine High School; a massacre could have been prevented. Negotiation and peace must become a way of solving problems rather than use of deadly force.

References

Fuchs, Cynthia. "Fear and Consumption." PopMatters. 11 Oct 2002. PopMatters Media, Inc.. 5 Mar 2008 

Johnson, Brian D.. "Staring Down the Barrel of A Gun." Bowling for Columbine. 21 Oct 2001. 5 Mar 2008 

McIntyre, Lisa J.. The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts in Sociology. 3rd. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, 1999.
Shively, Cheryl. "How Society Looks at Criminals."

The 3 Paradigms of Sociology. 04 Apr 2006. Associated Content, Inc.. 5 Mar 2008 


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