September 15, 2005
BehindTheMedspeak: The problem that dare not speak its name (ear wax removal)
See: I didn't say it, I just wrote it so don't get your baggies in a twist.
And if you're not Jamaican, well, better ask someone what the above phrase means.
'Cause if you're not Jamaican then you ain't... oh, no, can't go there: Version 2.0, remember?
Enough frivolity: let's get serious about a serious medical problem.
Yes, ear wax.
You probably don't even know you have it.
I mean, unless you're from another planet it's kind of difficult to see it, what?
But trust me — I'm a doctor and I say it's in there.
An aside: when I saw the "Doctor Recommended" symbol in the graphic for this product I burst out laughing — as if. But I digress.
The thing that makes this tool worthy of inclusion in this very high street–oriented blog is the clever safety stop that the inventor created to prevent you from doing your own brain biopsy at home.
Very nicely done.
- From the website:
Safely Remove Earwax
Unlike regular cotton swabs, this ear wax remover can never be inserted too deep — so you can safely remove earwax yourself.
The built–in safety stop prevents over–insertion and damage to your eardrum.
You get a set of 2 for $7.99 here.
What I want to know is if there is someone out there who's coordinated enough to do both ears at once.
Oh, yes, one more thing: the short end is the end that goes in your ear.
They should've put a rubber ball or something on the end of the longer part that you're supposed to hold in order to prevent some dodo from using that end to do the job.
As it is, anyone unfortunate enough to try it that way may find out what cerebrospinal fluid looks like — up close and real personal.
Does gizmodo know about this?
Compatible with all known cellular carriers both here and abroad.
Can your cellphone do that?
Didn't think so.
3.5 ounces of solid milk chocolate with all the correct keys so you don't have to worry about pushing any more wrong buttons.
"Will ship after weather cools, around October 1."
Forget the gold foil–wrapped coins routine in the Christmas stockings: this is so much more 21st–century.
The Biology of Blame
I'd never heard this term until a few moments ago when I read it in Jeffrey Zaslow's "Moving On" column in today's Wall Street Journal.
His essay on the subject of blame is superb: it follows.
- 'It's All Your Fault': Why Americans Can't Stop Playing the Blame Game
The urge to blame is an innate human impulse dating back a million years or more.
It's an impulse that travels through our bodies to our fingertips, as we all saw in the frenzied finger-pointing over Hurricane Katrina.
Just as meteorologists and coastal engineers predicted the hurricane and flooding, there are "blame researchers" who foresaw the storm of words and pointed fingers that followed.
They weren't surprised when politicians, victims and the media angrily affixed blame for the inadequate levee system and deadly slow rescue efforts.
In fact, they see the tragedy through the prism of an academic question: Can our blame impulses weed out ineptitude, improve conditions, and save lives?
The answer: sometimes.
Other times, blame ruins everything, creating hostilities, scapegoats, and an avoidance of hard decisions that could actually solve problems.
"The human impulse to blame grows out of the evolutionary need to avert harm," explains Ohio University professor Mark Alicke, who researches "the psychology of blame."
If a group of early humans thought their survival was threatened because a member wasn't carrying his load -- hunting, gathering, whatever -- they'd point fingers, throw rocks, even commit murder.
"Just as we have appetites to nourish ourselves, we also have this predisposition to be alert about who is acting inappropriately," says John Humbach, a Pace University Law School professor who has studied "the biology of blame."
Of course, an appetite can lead to overeating.
Likewise, our instincts for self-protection can lead to overblaming.
The Bible is filled with finger-pointers.
After Eve ate the forbidden fruit, she told God that the serpent deceived her.
Adam blamed not only Eve, but also God for giving him Eve.
Modern America is beset by blame-mongering.
At ShiftTheBlame.com, you can buy a "calibrated blame-shifting device" (top) for $4.95.
It's a giant foam hand with the words "It's your fault!" on the pointer finger.
Run by East Bank Communications, an ad agency in Portland, Ore., the Web site offers tongue-in-cheek mantras: "You have everyone but yourself to blame." "It's not you, it's the printer."
The jokes ring true because finding fault is an American preoccupation.
We're a litigious society, obsessed with assigning dollar amounts to blameworthy actions.
For entertainment, we used to sing "Blame It on the Bossa Nova" -- now we turn to radio and TV talk-show pundits, who revel in blame games and accusations.
And we're fluent in the language of culpability: Ralph Nader was blamed for Al Gore's 2000 presidential defeat, because he siphoned away votes.
Your spouse is blamed if you're unhappy.
Our parents are blamed for everything.
The right to criticize leaders is a great gift of our democracy.
But this freedom to find fault means that even "acts of God" such as Katrina need a human face, says Eric Dezenhall, a crisis-management consultant in Washington, D.C.
"Every event must have a villain, a victim and a vindicator in order for our culture to understand it. History is calamity-driven, but Americans feel these things shouldn't happen here, and someone must be at fault."
Our blame culture is rooted in both nature and nurture.
We still succumb to primitive impulses: If we stub a toe on a chair, we'll kick it and curse at it, even though we know it's irrational to blame inanimate objects.
Meanwhile, from childhood on, we're schooled in the art of blame-shifting.
"Parents blame each other, teachers blame students, parents blame teachers," says Margaret Paul, a psychologist whose Los Angeles-based "Inner Bonding" program helps people tame finger-pointing tendencies.
Often, we blame because we lack the skills to problem-solve.
"Blame is about the past, and about words. Problem-solving focuses on the future and is about actions," says Cathryn Bond Doyle, a communications counselor in Medford, N.J.
She encourages executives to ask: Where do we want our company to go, and do we have the right people to get there?
It's more productive to evaluate and recalibrate than to mercilessly judge someone's past actions, or to demonize them, she says.
Ms. Doyle questions the timing of Katrina finger-pointing.
She uses a car-accident analogy.
While attending to the dead and injured at the scene, emergency crews don't hold hearings to discuss why traffic lights weren't installed.
"We always have to ask, 'What is the most effective use of our energy right now?' "
Still, the vociferous blaming over Katrina has led to concrete results.
Stung by critics, the Federal Emergency Management Agency chief resigned.
President Bush publicly declared that he took responsibility for government failures.
Because the crisis in New Orleans revealed the depths of urban poverty, "perhaps the finger-pointing will lead to an effort to rebuild all our cities," says James Morone, a Brown University political-science professor.
"I'm not sure the bickering is so terrible. In a sense, it's a fundamental values debate about the direction American society will take."
Of course, politicians may take the low road, pursuing what Prof. Morone predicts could be "a fight to the death in search of Katrina villains."
They'd all do well to consider an old adage: When you point a finger at someone else, your other fingers point toward you.
Oh, how refreshing to read the above.
Tell you what: anesthesiology is a wonderful profession if you'd like to get over the tendency to blame and instead focus on how to make things better.
Because guess what: stuff happens for no reason, you learn after doing it for a few years; bad stuff, frightening stuff, life–threatening stuff.
If you decide to use your allotted five minutes (or less) after ventricular fibrillation begins to try to figure out what to blame instead of treating the problem your patient will die right there in front of you.
So I'm very nonjudgmental and often surprisingly incurious as to why something happens and trying to assign a cause and make the problem less likely to recur.
Because next time it's gonna come from an entirely different, unexpected place.
The nature of anesthetic disasters and my own quirky view of the world have led me to think that very little that happens is logical and therefore foreseeable.
A belief in things making sense leads to a lifetime of heartbreak.
There is a better way.
Things happen for their own reasons — not a reason.
Just that one small shift in point of view — admittedly not as easy to do as to try to do — can be transformative.
It was for me.
Trouble is, it took me a few decades to really believe it.
Does Dr. James Levine up at the Mayo Clinic know about this?
What may be the world's biggest treadmill (above) — it weighs 8 tons — was delivered to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage this week in an effort to help the zoo's obese elephant Maggie drop a thousand pounds or so.
Maggie, 23–years–old, is the only African elephant in Alaska.
Over the years she's put on a little weight around the gut, as happens to most living creatures, but in Maggie's case that means a very high risk of her getting arthritis and other joint problems due to the tremendous load on her hips, knees and feet.
In August of 2004, when Maggie tipped the scales at her all–time high of 9,120 pounds, zoo officials decided that enough was more than enough.
They put Maggie on a new diet and health regime and in the past year she's dropped 900 pounds.
Only another half–ton to go.
The zoo hopes to have its new treadmill, 20–feet–long by 8–feet–wide and built by Conveyer Engineering, an Idaho–based company that designs heavy–duty conveyer systems for mining, up and running by the end of this month and Maggie working out on it by Thanksgiving.
More on this fast–breaking story here.
Update on the treadmill situation here at bookofjoe:
After my January 31 post on the subject, I did my due diligence — or rather, I took my crack research team off bookofjoe–related activities for a few hours and told them to get busy and find me the world's best treadmill for walking — and my Smooth 5.15 has been up and running and in daily use since it arrived in May.
Although Dr. Levine (below, at work in his office)
recommended a speed of 0.7 mph for all activities on it, I've taken to starting my morning papers at that speed and then, at around 30 minutes or so, after I've had my first cup of coffee, bumping it up to 1.0 mph for the next 90 minutes of reading.
So far so good: haven't gone flying off it yet.
I integrate a period of two or three minutes or so of backward walking and reading every half hour or so to keep my hamstrings happy.
As soon as this post goes up I will send it to Dr. Levine, my treadmill guru, for his contemplation and possible comment.
Firstview.com — Ten years of fashion on the internet
A decade ago runway photographers Marcio Madeira and Don Ashby began this website.
It hasn't been easy sledding.
The elitist fashion industry initially rose up in anger at what it foresaw to be the loss of its mysterious and secretive aura, now opened up be shared with anyone with an internet connection.
The photographers persisted and today their site has a digital archive of over 2 million images, used by 400 publications in the U.S. alone for photo features.
The website receives over one million page views a day from editors, designers and shoppers.
The founders still find themselves in hot water in France, where they were arrested, jailed and prosecuted in 2003 after photographing a Chanel show.
Though they won their case this past June, Chanel is appealing.
Firstview recently made its website at least partly browsable via PDAs and cellphones.
Robin Givhan wrote a story about the site for last Friday's Washington Post; it has much more detail.
'Hair On Fire' Fiber Optic Wig
Powered by a concealed watch battery (included).
"It will make you the mane attraction at any party."
A "shockingly fun, shaggy do that glitters, glimmers and glows."
I think I'd look smashing in this, what?
The Night Migrations — by Louise Glück
This is the moment when you see again
the red berries of the mountain ash
and in the dark sky
the birds' night migrations.
It grieves me to think
the dead won't see them—
these things we depend on,
Apple Slicer — With a twist
When I first saw this object I sighed: it's perfect.
Then I ordered one.
And only then did I begin this post.
From the website:
- Position this ingenious disc–shaped slicer on any apple and rotate to release perfect slices for snacking or cooking.
Don't need a whole apple at once?
Just leave the disc pressed against the fruit and it will not dry out or turn brown.