Friday, October 28, 2011

Online startup: Colorado Business Express

The state this week launched Colorado Business Express, an online business registration service where budding business owners can file the state documents required to open up shop.

John D. Conley, executive director of the Statewide Internet Portal Authority, which overlooks the official website for Colorado, said five new businesses jumped on the service the first day it went live during a soft launch before Monday's formal start.

"People found it without us doing any type of advertising, which to us shows the demand is there," Conley said. "Especially in this economy, people are creating their own businesses, starting their own businesses" but "not being able to afford a business-filing attorney, (they) are trying to get through it on their own."

Conley said it took nine to twelve months to launch the service, which reversed the approach to online filings offered by three state agencies -- the Secretary of State, the Department of Revenue and the Department of Labor and Employment -- from an agency perspective, where forms served the agency's purpose of data entry, to the perspective of a user.

"That's why we went with the wizard approach," he said, "where the small business owner for the first time only has to focus on answering the questions. They don't have to understand the regulatory language or the red tape, if you will."

I tried the wizard briefly and found it takes you nicely to the places where you want to go, including the Internal Revenue Service for a tax ID if you need one. Once you move off the state pages, however, following things like IRS instructions remain as traditionally confusing as ever.

But state documentation remains easy. You have to have an already established business or trade name to follow the wizards, but if you don't have that, the Express will take you to the Secretary of State's website to get one for $1. The site's functionality so far allows you to apply for a state sales-tax license, an employee wage withholding account and an unemployment insurance account, and may, in the future, integrate other functions as well, Conley said.

You may have read in the Denver Post about a shake up in the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade that is intended to sharpen the state's focus on retaining and attracting jobs in Colorado.

Small-business hiring has always been a critical driver of state employment, so the Colorado Business Express, if it paves a way for faster business startups, serves that agenda well. Check it out.

Monday, October 17, 2011

In the Chemo Room: Integrative medicine

I'm in a clinical trial of a drug alphanumerically designated by its maker Genentech Inc. as MEHD7945A, as if it were a star or a galaxy.

The drug  has shown some benefit to me so far. It has reduced my lung tumors slightly, and kept other tumors stable. That, besides some moderate side effects, is the drug's benefit.

But my enrollment in the trial is a result of past chemotherapy treatments losing their effectiveness. Standard treatments no longer control the growth of tumors in my lungs and lymph nodes in my chest cavity; the new drug seems to be doing that.

But even as I take the drug and monitor myself for its effects, I have always been interested in what are called alternative or complimentary treatments for my cancer. They include diet, physical exercise, reduction of stress, spiritual and psychological exercise, dietary supplements and just about anything else someone might suggest to a cancer patient.

The suggestions can be overwhelming and an oncologist often will poo poo them as unscientific and not worth your bother.

But I listened to a 90-minute Colon Cancer Alliance webinar called Integrative Medicine: Wellness Throughout Treatment and Surviorship earlier this month and heard something I have wanted to hear ever since I began my own scattershot research of alternatives to chemotherapy.

Mary Hardy, a doctor and medical director of the Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, finally put an end to across-the-board dismissals of alternatives:

"I like to choose interventions from this arena that have scientific evidence where it is available," Hardy cautioned from her own scientific background.

She added, "The evidence base for what kind of diet, for what kind of supplements, for what kind of effects, is much smaller than it is for the chemotherapy medications that you'll be offered. But there is a body of evidence and it is growing, and when people are making recommendations for you in this area, they should be aware of this evidence, aware of these studies, and use them appropriately."

Hardy went on to share what she knew of the most-talked-about alternatives, first saying: "The best wellness plan is one that is tailored to you."

She suggested finding a knowledgeable coach to help you craft your own response to your disease, and she said to inform your oncologist of what you are doing so he or she can respond as well. Some chemotherapy drugs can be rendered less effective by certain dietary supplements.

Her basic components of a plan were simple:
  • Optimize your diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Practice regular stress management.

Hardy's presentation -- you can listen to the whole show by clicking on the link above and then clicking on "Launch Presentation" -- was actually the second part of the webinar.

Anne Coscarelli, a clinical professor in the Department of Psychology at UCLA, opened the session speaking of the mental and emotional toll a cancer diagnosis takes on a patient, their family and their caregivers, and offering "mindful" techniques for patients to dispel fear and anxiety.

"Colon cancer, like other cancers, comes with a measure of uncertainty," Coscarelli said. "It really can change a person's life both physically, mentally and spiritually." It also can disrupt a patient's physical function, their social network, their sexual and reproductive health, their financial and work status and their spiritual and psychological outlook.

"Stress and anxiety become imprinted on us,' Coscarelli said. "They become imprinted on our brain."

She added that fears of the spread or recurrence of the disease can be spiked by news coverage of the latest medical or research developments, by surfing the Internet for more and more information about your disease, and even by anniversary dates: of surgeries or disease-free scans, or other markers in a patient's fight for life.

The webinar, jointly hosted by the UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology and the Colon Cancer Alliance, is one of a series of "Conversations about Colon Cancer" held on the CCA's website. Check it out for more information about living with the disease.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The entertainment value of occupying Wall Street

John Hendrickson of the Denver Post logged into the Occupy Wall Street stream of consciousness over the weekend with a post on the newspaper's website and in the printed pages of its Sunday entertainment section, providng a little extra to what he calls the "spectacle" of the occupy movement.

If you have any sympathy at all for the occupiers' cause, ... er causes ... at first blush you would think Hendrickson's piece was a 1960s parent's cynical take on hippies.

But when you read the piece a second time, you realize that Hendrickson is merely pointing out that everything nowadays is captured on some camera and posted on the Internet for everyone to see.

Hendrickson implies such multiplicity of images detracts from the protestors' message, and he complains that the news consumer is left to fend for himself or herself when it comes to interpreting a meaning from the raw reportage.

In other words, the gatekeepers of broadcast and mainstream journalism are not around to guide you while you sit at your computer or stand in the middle of the street looking down at your mobile device to brush up on current events.

Hendrickson's publisher, William Dean Singleton, predicted as much years ago when he suggested reporters in the future would carry cameras and voice recorders to capture the news not only in words but in video and sound. But now everyone is a reporter; all you need do is upload your recorded experience to the Internet.

Then the gatekeepers have to sort through all that chaff to edit images they think suggest a meaning in it all.

Hendrickson's piece seems more a tired complaint than a commentary. But it was entertaining; I guess you could say the writer did his job.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Occupy Denver: future middle-class calls for help

Corporate America is finally getting treated to its Arab Spring. Will it listen?

"Occupy Wall Street" is an informal movement of young people (college graduates without jobs commensurate to their education; activists without any other cause to jump on; victims of a Wall Street-induced financial crisis in 2008 for which no one has been held accountable but foreclosed home owners) gathering in a Manhattan park over the past two weeks to protest everything in their lives that makes them miserable.

And the movement is spreading as it should across the nation. The Denver Post wrote a short story about a demonstration held here yesterday that gathered 50 people at Broadway and Colfax, and then marched to the Federal Reserve building on the 16th Street Mall.

I've written about the growing efficacy of peaceful demonstrations around the world. And I've written about how the American poor and lower middle class gained nothing from the boom times that preceded the 2008-2009 Great Recession, but were the first to be punished for it by banks that recklessly lent them starter-home money just to collect the fees charged during a home purchase.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is a reflection of young peoples' dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama's cautionary approach to fulfilling his campaign promise of "hope and change."

If we're lucky, it may spread and grow through Election Day 2012, but unlike the Tea Party, set the country on a correct path out of our economic problems: taxing Wall Street millionaires who ripped off the country during the boom; passing a jobs act that puts more middle-class tradesmen and women to work and keeps teachers in their classrooms, and firefighters, policemen and other first-responders on the job; and offers small businesses tax credits to stimulate hiring.

America deserves the Occupy Wall Street movement on so many levels, it should only be happy its young citizens are taking to the streets to speak to power. If it accomplishes its amorphous ends, the movement will have provided the X- and Y- and Z-generations of Americans their own versions of the Peace and Civil Rights movements of the 1960s youth rebellion in these United States.

Have at it kids. It's your time.