Volcker on financial reform

Paul Volcker, who did the dirty work that pulled us out of recession and stagflation 30 years ago, has been busy during his year with the Obama administration. His explanation of proposed financial sector reforms appears in today’s New York Times.

I might be wrong, but the idea that forcing commercial banks to divest themselves of proprietary trading desks and in-house hedge/private equity funds appears to be a win for some banks (Wells Fargo)  and a major loss for others (JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs).

WFC’s focus on traditional banking has served its investors well over time, even if the stock price had stalled before the meltdown. Analysts say it is working out the headaches that came with Wachovia and Golden West, and will emerge from these doldrums in an excellent position relative to its competitors. (WFC ended the week up, while GS, MS and JPM tailed off.)

Volcker makes a good point about the continued moral hazard facing fragile financial markets, and the proposal to bring back Glass-Steagal barriers between investment and commercial banking seem reasonable. They will be hard to implement, even if they can make it through Congress. But who knows, perhaps we’ll see Obama get behind this in a big way. Maybe he’ll forget about that ill-begotten tax on former TARP recipients.

How to Reform Our Financial System.

DBS Journal: After the second tune-up

It’s been about a week and a half since I brought myself in for the second tune-up. So far, the unwanted movement in my right arm and leg (aka dyskinesia) is greatly reduced — and all we did was turn the power down a tiny bit, from 2.5 volts to 2.3. That’s it. (Except for a tiny bump up on one of the meds.)

Now my right knee is starting to “track” properly when I move it at the gym — when I squat, it lines up over my right foot, instead of trying to corkscrew toward my left ankle. Better balance while walking, too.

My right arm is really sore, especially at the distal (closer to hand) end of the bicep. What’s telling is that the soreness is most pronounced only when I take a full 25/100 tab of levodopa (the drug that relieves the tremor but causes dyskinesia). So I am now left with a choice: stay at the current level, or drop the dosage and get relief in the right arm, but risk an uptick in tremor in the left arm.

Now you’re probably thinking, Isn’t Parkinson’s fun? No, not a bit. But it’s getting easier to ignore it, and hopefully I can continue to do so for a while.

And about that study that showed an average 10-pound gain in weight in the first year post-DBS? I’m now averaging just below 160, a gain of maybe 2-3 pounds, no effect on waist size, so at least it’s all muscle. BMI=22, with body fat percentage still well below 10. Wahoo!

PD and Your Sense of Smell

People with Parkinson’s have been shown to have an impaired sense of smell. In fact, the sense of smell can become impaired up to four years before the onset of PD symptoms. Strange, eh? I can testify to this personally.

The theory is that the olfactory bulb — the unit that sends information about smells back to the rest of the brain — is somehow involved in the process of making new cells in the nervous system. Scientists believe that certain kinds of stem cells travel a raceway from the back of the brain all the way forward to the end in one’s beak. Problems with this system start to show up around the same time that problems develop in the part of the brain affected by PD. That’s the idea, anyway.

So here comes a study of the sense of smell in people who have had DBS surgery (like me). It turns out that the sense of smell improves in people who had DBS, versus those who are sticking with meds. This adds to the allure of other random factoids about DBS supposedly having an ability to slow the otherwise steady progression of the disease. Here’s hoping. This article is a tough slog, but you can just skip down to the last page for a relatively clear summary:

Olfactory Symptoms in Parkinsons on ADVANCE for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists.

Teaching an Old Brain New Tricks

An interesting article in The New York Times describes how our brains continue to develop as we age. Sure, we might not be as swift to remember specific facts or details. But we can draw more connections between facts. The best mode of learning, according to the author, is to engage with ideas that push us to reconsider our own conventional wisdom.

Read more about it here:  How to Train the Aging Brain