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Kent's Funding for Alcor

June 9 2008 at 5:39 PM
Melody Maxim  (Login melmax)
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Thanks to FD, for the link to the very interesting news, regarding substantial funding being provided to Alcor, by Saul Kent and “two other donors.” (See previous thread.)

Believing I probably know as much as anyone currently involved in cryonics, regarding the medical procedures and equipment required for "standby, stabilization and transport," and being a decent author of case reports, I might apply for the new Alcor “Standby Director” position, myself, but I doubt my application could get past condition number six, ("Alcor will seek candidates for both positions who are mutually agreeable to the Alcor board of directors and the donors."). It seems one person I am probably not very "agreeable to" is both a member of the Alcor board AND one of the donors. It's too bad being "agreeable" is such a huge requirement for LEF funding. When progress isn't being made, isn't someone who will dare to disagree needed, in order to bring about change? When little-to-nothing is being accomplished, and people are paid to be "agreeable," there's not much hope for improvement, is there?

FD writes that $1,350,000 “ain’t chicken feed,” but it is certainly only a very small percentage of what LEF has already invested, at SA and CCR, and what has that funding accomplished? FD is “even further delighted to see the conditions being placed on the money's use - that there will be some accountability on progress of any project before more money is merely thrown at it.” I think FD should keep in mind that the person asking for “accountability” has previously approved of people being paid substantial amounts of money to design and build poor imitations of existing medical equipment. He's also previously approved of grossly unqualified people being paid two-to-three times what their qualified counterparts typically earn, and doesn’t appear to have batted an eye when the person he seems to rely on, more than anyone else, sent three of these totally unqualified, inexperienced people to perform a case, in spite of having had years, and millions of dollars, with which to prepare. With a track record such as this, just how much “accountability” is FD expecting? Is Kent ever going to realize he needs to hire someone who is knowledgeable of the medical procedures involved in stabilization and transport, or is his gift to Alcor only going to fund more of “the blind leading the blind”?

Will this $1.3+ million buy some Alcor standby business, for SA, or will SA be dissolved, once Saul Kent is happy with the standby situation at Alcor? Will Charles Platt, “having participated in a dozen cryonics cases, taking a leadership role in five of them” (from the SA website), now be up for the Standby Director’s position, at Alcor? Did Steve Van Sickle and Carlos Mondragon step down from the board, (after opposing the funding offer from Kent and friends), because they felt like Alcor was being bought? Just how "agreeable" will the current Alcor staff members be, given the ten percent pay increase being funded by Kent, et. al.? If nothing else, it should be interesting to see how this turns out.

 
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Finance Department
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I was being optimistic regarding change in Mr. Kent

June 9 2008, 8:53 PM 

Yes, my post was cheering on what I viewed, and portrayed, as a change in attitude and direction by Mr. Kent and probably others. I truly hope they have come to recognize the need to not just throw money at things and expect people to use it wisely without strict accountability and reporting. Their stated requirements along that line for this Alcor funding, give me optimism that they now see the need for close monitoring. I don't see it as productive to rub their noses in past lapses. Our having done so already on this forum, perhaps helped in them to be made aware of the problem and to see the need for change. I would not be one to bring up the old style of non-management, unless it becomes obvious in the future that it continues and there never actually was any real change.

 
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Melody Maxim
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Mistaken Assumptions by FD?

June 10 2008, 9:30 AM 

FD...

Are you assuming the nonsense, and lack of progress, that has been previously funded by Kent/LEF has been due to a lack of "monitoring"? If so, you are incorrect, at least on a superficial level. When I was at SA, Saul Kent "monitored" what went on, on an almost daily basis, mostly by communicating, long-distance, with Charles Platt. He reviewed, and approved of, the vast majority of the projects Platt suggested. In my opinion, the problem with that was, Kent didn't appear to know any more about the medical procedures involved, or existing medical equipment that could be easily adapted for use in cryonics, than Platt. Platt builds a "Rube Goldberg," and Kent "ooohs" and "ahhhhs," right along with everyone else who might be impressed by smoke and mirrors. He didn't object to the ramps, the DIY level detectors, the Home Depot cooldown box, or RUP's performing perfusion, because he, apparently, didn't know any better. When I repeatedly tried to call attention to the foolishness of the projects, and to what I believed to be the corrupt manipulations of staff members, he essentially told me to hit the road, if I couldn't learn to respect, and work with, Charles Platt. SO...who do you think is going to monitor Kent's funding at Alcor? Platt? Kent, himself? Without someone who actually knows what they are doing, we are just going to get more of the same. (YOU may not be "that cynical," but you haven't experienced what I have, at an LEF-funded facility.)

On the other hand, if you meant that no one who is knowledgeable, (regarding existing medical procedures and equipment that could be used in cryonics), has been monitoring the progress of the LEF-funded "standby, stabilization and transport" efforts, you are absolutely correct. Due to my past experience with SA and Kent, I'd be surprised to see this change. It would take a lot of guts to say, "Hey, we finally realize we haven't had a proper understanding of the procedures we are trying to perform," and to admit that cryonics standby, stabilization and transport procedures aren't as "unique" as the status quo would like everyone to believe. These procedures are virtually identical to procedures in conventional medicine, procedures that have been successfully performed, FOR DECADES. No need to reinvent the wheel...common sense dictates building on existing technology. Unfortunately, common sense doesn't seem to prevail, very often, in cryonics.

FD writes: "I would not be one to bring up the old style of non-management, unless it becomes obvious in the future that it continues and there never actually was any real change."

In my opinion, the style has been MIS-management, rather than "non-management," and I would be (pleasantly) surprised to see that change.

 
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Maybe, maybe not

June 10 2008, 9:38 PM 

Again, Melody, you assume that the players in this new support for Alcor R&D will not change their mode of management, just because they did things differently in the past. I do not assume that to be the case. You ask "who do you think is going to monitor Kent's funding at Alcor? Platt? Kent, himself?". I would think that those appointed to the two positions to be filled at Alcor and funded by the donors, and who have to be approved by them, would be among the ones doing the progress reporting to the donors, Kent factoring in there as a monitor of it all. I personally doubt that Platt will be in one of those two positions, nor would want to be. But I don't know. The important thing to me is that we allow this to play out, without a lot of coloring it with past mistakes on the part of some generous donors who I believe sincerely want to see progress happen, and give them the opportunity to show they can effectively assure productive use of the donated funds.

Also you say "if you meant that no one who is knowledgeable, (regarding existing medical procedures and equipment that could be used in cryonics), has been monitoring the progress of the LEF-funded "standby, stabilization and transport" efforts, you are absolutely correct" and I largely agree with that statement. I am hoping it has been getting better under Baldwin, but we don't get much information from her, sadly.

So yes, my assumptions could be mistaken, but I'm hoping time will tell that they are not.

 
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Melody Maxim
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Optimism vs. Skepticism

June 11 2008, 8:49 AM 

I appreciate your optimism, FD, truly, I do. However, I think some "preventative" cynicism/skepticism might be beneficial. You mention Ms. Baldwin. As I recall, you had high hopes for her appointment, as manager of SA, so I think you should consider how that situation has turned out. Several people, well-acquainted with all the players there, expected her to be gone, the minute she didn't run things exactly the way Charles Platt wanted her to, (as I believe was the case, with Bary Wilson and myself). That was before I showed up, here, warning that might happen. Ms. Baldwin is still at SA, but what is she accomplishing? As far as we can see, I would say "not much." She's sitting there, with the same grossly overpaid, underqualified staff, which indicates she probably doesn't have hiring and firing power, which would be odd, for a manager, wouldn't it? As far as I can see, the only thing that gets regularly updated on the SA website, is Charles Platt's bio, which should tell us all something.

FD: "I would think that those appointed to the two positions to be filled at Alcor and funded by the donors, and who have to be approved by them, would be among the ones doing the progress reporting to the donors, Kent factoring in there as a monitor of it all."

The question is: Is Alcor going to hire people who have a good understanding of cryonics, emergency medical procedures and perfusion, for these positions? If not, these people will have to do what Ms. Baldwin has most likely had to do, and rely on the input of others who have limited knowledge, themselves, and who haven't really accomplished much, in the past. "As for Kent's "monitoring," as long as someone is "building things," he seems to be satisfied, apparently, being blissfully unaware of existing equipment and without asking the question, "Does form follow function?"

FD: "I personally doubt that Platt will be in one of those two positions, nor would want to be. But I don't know.

Did you happen to notice this little bit of the Alcor announcement?
"If the proposal involves developing new equipment, the next steps will be building and testing a prototype of this new equipment. Only after this prototype has been approved by the R&D committee will money be provided to construct or purchase additional units. The R&D committee is charged with evaluating all available options before making decisions regarding readiness equipment."

You can call me "cynical" all you want, but this looks like Kent possibly buying some “design and fabrication” hours, for Charles Platt, at Alcor. Will Alcor take bids on prototypes, or will this work automatically go to Platt, and/or others associated with Kent/SA/LEF? (Just what do SA's two fabricators and welder do, with their combined 120 man-hours per week, anyway? There's really not that much to build.) Keep in mind that Kent’s clan brought us the never-ending liquid ventilation project, homemade level alarms that cost exponentially more than FDA-approved models (most of the excessive cost in man-hours paid to someone who is not an engineer/designer, by trade), ramps for loading a patient container that needs to be kept level, and a few other projects that defy common sense and would insult the intelligence of most people. WILL Alcor take estimates from legitimate companies, engineers, or designers, rather than pay expensive, ongoing “consulting” fees to Kent's friends, for prototypes? Most companies that build prototypes will give an accurate estimate of the time and cost of a project, in advance. There's no need to pay amateurs high-priced "consulting" hours, for weeks, months, years, or decades, to R&D equipment.

While Saul is working on that first draft of a “comprehensive fundraising and revenue-generation plan,” he should take into consideration the public perception of the people working in cryonics. Most people, (other than Saul and Bill), are unlikely to want to fund exorbitant salaries for unqualified persons to perform medical procedures, or pay science fiction writers to build equipment for medical procedures. At some point, people in cryonics are going to have to make a conscious effort to appear “credible” and "responsible," rather than “unique," (a nice word for "kooky").

FD: "The important thing to me is that we allow this to play out, without a lot of coloring it with past mistakes on the part of some generous donors who I believe sincerely want to see progress happen, and give them the opportunity to show they can effectively assure productive use of the donated funds."

I disagree. I think we'll just get more of the same, unless we preempt it with some serious skepticism.

 
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Melody Maxim
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A Question and an Observation

June 11 2008, 10:54 AM 

Who is on the "Alcor R&D committee"?

"The R&D committee is charged with evaluating all available options before making decisions regarding readiness equipment." http://www.alcornews.org/weblog/

Quite interestingly, this is the VERY SAME agreement I was able to get Saul to make, regarding the cooldown box project at SA. Shortly thereafter, he gave the approval for Charles and Gary to run out to Home Depot to get the materials and start building a box, in-house, WITHOUT the comparison report and discussions he had agreed would take place, PRIOR to the construction, or purchase, of a box. Gary, (allegedly the "manager" of the "design and fabrication department"), and I (allegedly the "manager" of the "cryomedical department"), had just had a conversation in which he showed me Charles Platt's drawings for the box, and insisted I "had to agree" Charles' design was the best way to go. I responded by providing Gary with information I had collected, regarding professionally-built cryogenic containers that cost just a little more than one week of Charles' time, alone. Gary told me, and I quote, "I can handle Saul," and apparently, (with Platt's help, no doubt), he did, because just a short time after, they were building the box. When I objected, Saul told me I needed to learn to respect Charles, (allegedly a "consultant"), and cooperate with him at work, or quit. You know which choice I opted for.

In other words, FD...this isn't anything "new," this is an old policy I suggested, and Saul agreed to, at SA. A policy he didn't adhere to.

 
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Finance Department
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Glad you are getting the skeptical side out, here.

June 11 2008, 9:37 PM 

If you were not here I would probably have to be doing that view more strongly, myself.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this all plays out. Including who all end up on the "R&D Committee". I encourage them to come out of the closet, soon.

FD


 
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