March 29, 2007
BehindTheMedspeak: 'No Cellphones Beyond This Point' — Why I routinely ignore this warning when I'm in the hospital
A report recently published in the March issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings concluded that "cellphones in hospitals present no danger at all," wrote Nicholas Bakalar in a March 13, 2007 New York Times article, which follows.
- Data Show How Electronics Mix With Medical Devices
If a halogen lamp causes static on a nearby radio, the problem is probably not serious. But what if the electronic antitheft device in the department store makes a heart pacemaker malfunction, or a cellphone used in a hospital interferes with a blood pressure monitor?
Two reports published in the March issue of The Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggest that the dangers of radio wave interference with implanted medical devices are real but modest, and that cellphones in hospitals present no danger at all.
One study, both of whose authors have received research financing from manufacturers of medical equipment, describes two cases in which antitheft devices, sometimes called electronic article surveillance, or E.A.S., systems, apparently caused medical devices to malfunction.
A 71-year-old man with an implanted defibrillator was shocked and staggered by an electronic antitheft system, and a 76-year old woman with a pacemaker collapsed while standing near one of the devices. Seated leaning against the machine, she passed out and was revived five times before store employees moved her away from the device.
Neither person was seriously harmed. The authors said both episodes happened in spring 2006 at large retail stores, but did not identify them.
“There is no problem in having E.A.S. systems,” said Dr. J. Rod Gimbel, a co-author of the study and a cardiologist at East Tennessee Heart Consultants in Knoxville. “But it would be good practice to educate the staffs of retail stores about the problem.”
Jim Vanderpool, product health and safety director for Sensormatic Electronics, the manufacturer of the surveillance machines involved in both incidents, said in an e-mail message that the company had “no independent information regarding the two specific cases,” but that the article reinforced the scientific consensus “that patients with medical implants like pacemakers and defibrillators should simply walk through electronic antitheft systems at a normal pace.”
The Food and Drug Administration advised the industry in 2000 to label surveillance devices with warnings not to linger near them or lean on them. “That recommendation still holds true,” said Mitchell Shein, a senior reviewer in the agency’s device center. “But if a person is exposed to an E.A.S., as long as they move through at a normal pace, the likelihood of a negative outcome is very limited.”
Another article in the same journal describes an experiment testing cellphones at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., over a four-month period in 2006. The researchers used various phones and wireless handheld devices in 75 patient rooms and the intensive care unit, where patients were nearby or connected to a total of 192 medical machines of 23 types.
In 300 tests of ringing, making calls, talking on the phone and receiving data, there was not a single instance of interference with the medical apparatus. For many of the tests, the cellphones were working at lower received signal strengths — that is, showing fewer bars on the screen — which means they were operating at the highest power output levels. The authors conclude with a recommendation to relax existing cellphone rules.
But Mr. Shein said changing hospital cellphone regulations on the basis of these findings might be premature. “I think it’s dangerous for someone to go around doing ad hoc testing and conclude that it’s not going to be an issue for others,” he said. “There was no result, but there may have been if the circumstances had been slightly different.”
Dr. David L. Hayes, the senior author and a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, disagreed. “Cellphone technology is the same throughout the country,” he said, “and hospital equipment is similar. I don’t think that testing in another part of the U.S. is going to have different results.
“I’m advocating based on this testing that we should change the rules,” Dr. Hayes continued, “and in fact many people ignore the rules anyway. In a way, the policy is already antiquated and violated de facto.”
When my pager battery died a few weeks ago, instead of replacing it I threw the dead pager in a drawer, never to be used again.
Here's the abstract of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings article.
- Use of Cellular Telephones in the Hospital Environment
Objective: To determine whether cellular telephones used in a normal way would cause interference with medical devices located in patient care areas of hospitals.
Methods: Two cellular telephones from different cellular carriers were tested in various patient care areas between February 15, 2006, and June 29, 2006. To monitor the medical devices and equipment in the patient care areas during testing, we observed the device displays and alarms.
Results: Interference of any type occurred in 0 of the 75 patient care rooms during the 300 tests performed. These 300 tests involved a total of 192 medical devices. The incidence of clinically important interference was 0% (95% confidence interval, 0%-4.8%).
Conclusions: Although cellular telephone use in general has been prohibited in hospitals because of concerns that these telephones would interfere with medical devices, this study revealed that when cellular telephones are used in a normal way no noticeable interference or interactions occurred with the medical devices.
Snug Plug — The Leave-In Drain Plug
From the website:
- Snug Plug® — The Leave-In Drain Plug
The Snug Plug drain stopper replaces awkward chains and cheap stoppers.
Simply push down to plug; push center to drain.
No more lost plugs or bulky chains.
Seals tightly and installs easily.
Easy enough for a child to use.
Fits 1.5" diameter drains.
"Easy enough for a child to use" — I'm sold.
That's the equivalent of "TechnoDolt®-Approved."
Two for $5.95.
How to choose a murder mystery when you're in a hurry
Hint: Not by its cover.
Here's the essay.
- Murder, I Read
You’re at the mystery section of an airport bookstore and the loudspeaker has just announced that your flight is in the late stages of boarding. You have maybe three or four minutes to make a choice. (That is your assignment, if you choose to accept it.) How do you go about deciding?
Look at the back cover? No, back-cover copy is written by an advertising flack who probably hasn’t read the book and is trying for something short and punchy like (and I will be making none of this up) “As unpredictable as trade winds” or “It couldn’t get any worse. Until it does.” Besides, rarely will the style of back-cover prose be anything like the style of the book itself, so reading it won’t tell you what you want to know. Depending on your taste, it might tell you something usefully negative. The moment I spot a reference to any country but this one, I move on. No international settings for me. Ditto for any promise that the book I am holding will be funny. Funny is for sitcoms and stand-up comedians. When it comes to mysteries, I’m a Matthew Arnold guy, all for high seriousness.
How about the blurbs, especially if a few of your favorites are touting the merits of an author new to you? I used to take direction from blurbs until I told a very famous mystery writer that he was right to have praised a book I had bought on his authority. He replied that he didn’t remember it, probably hadn’t read it, and was no doubt doing a favor for his publisher. Members of that club, it seems, pass blurbs out to each other like party favors.
The only thing left — and this is sure-fire — is to read the first sentence. The really bad ones leap out at you. Here’s one that has the advantage of being short (you can close the book quickly): “He cut through the morning rush-hour crowd like a shark fin through water.” Enough said. Here’s one that begins O.K., except for the heroine’s name, but then goes on a beat and a half too long: “Brianne Parker didn’t look like a bank robber or a murderer — her pleasantly plump baby face fooled everyone.” You don’t need the stuff after the dash. Brianne’s not looking like a murderer is the hook that draws you in to find out why she is one. The “pleasantly plump baby face” bit lets you off the hook and dumps you on a cliché, which might be all right if the author gave any sign of knowing that it was one. This guy is going to hit false notes for 300 pages, but I won’t be listening.
Sometimes a first sentence is bad because it’s pretentious. “Some stories wait to be told.” That’s an opening Tolstoy or Jane Austen might have considered (although they would have produced superior versions of it). But mystery writers usually aren’t Tolstoys or Austens, and a first sentence like this one is a signal (buyer beware) that the author is intent on contemplating his or her “craft” and wants you to contemplate it too. No thanks.
Time is running out, the doors will soon be closing. Here’s something much better: “Stromose was in high school when he met the boy who would someday murder his wife and son.” High marks for compression, information and what I call the “angle of lean.” A good first sentence knows about everything that will follow it and leans forward with great force, taking you with it. As you read this one you already want to find out (a) what was the relationship between the two in high school (b) what happened that turned a “boy” into a murderer, and (c) what sequence of events led to his murdering these particular people? The only thing wrong is that the author is as impressed with the sentence as he wants you to be; it is written with a snap and a click of self-satisfaction.
And here, finally, is the real thing, efficient, dense, and free of self-preening: “Joel Campbell, eleven years old at the time, began his descent into murder with a bus ride.” The name is nicely cadenced and sounds serious; “eleven years old at the time” takes the seriousness away, but it comes back with a vengeance and with a question: descent into murder, how did that happen? The answer — “with a bus ride” — only deepens the mystery, and we’re off. And look, the book is big and fat. Sold.
Iranian Rock Band Hypernova Takes New York by Storm
You could look it up, right here in today's New York Times.
But don't take my word for it: read the news yourself in Freya Petersen's story, which follows.
Up top is the band featuring, from left, Jamshid, Kami, Kodi and Raam.
- Iranian Rock Band Has a New York Moment
Performing Monday night at Fat Baby bar on the Lower East Side, the four members of Hypernova almost made it through their set before distinguishing themselves from the many other hip and hungry young talents who come to New York seeking musical recognition.
“We have no idea how good or bad we are — we’ve just been playing in Iran,” blurted out Raam, the group’s 25-year-old songwriter and frontman, to howls of encouragement from an audience of about 30 people stacked with Iranian-American friends and supporters. Nonchalance is a hard act to master.
“It may not seem like much to you, but it’s a dream to be here,” he went on, his fluent, accented English hinting at years spent on and off in the United States. “It took us forever.”
He was referring to the lengthy delays in obtaining visas to travel from Tehran, a waiting game spent agonizing over the deteriorating state of United States-Iranian relations. “Every day we’d wake up and say, ‘Please, don’t let Iran be on the front page again.’ ”
Raam, like his bandmates Kodi, 17, the guitarist; Jamshid, 26, the bass player; and Kami, 25, the drummer; goes by a derivation of his first name to avoid undue attention at home. “What we do in Iran is not as easy as it seems,” Raam said, with a verbal swagger belying the risk, in Iran, of performances that can lead to arrest, large fines and even a public flogging.
Rock music has been officially deemed contrary to the Islamic republic’s moral code. In December 2005, the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, banned all Western music from state-run airwaves in a reversal of reforms made under his more liberal predecessor.
Elsewhere, outside of Iran, Raam pointed out, musicians enjoy freedom. “We’re jeopardizing our lives every show we play,” he said. “I guess there’s that adventurous side added to the process that gives it that extra rush, that makes it even more rewarding and exciting. It’s definitely worth it. Performing underground in Tehran is the best drug.”
The product of a liberal upbringing and education in the West, Raam returned to Iran to collaborate with other musicians in the underground of Tehran — “you know, in places full of cockroaches,” he said.
Gigs are still played in only private spaces: basements in large homes in Tehran, or villas out of town and ostensibly beyond the reach of a vast and prying network of state agents loyal to the ruling clerical establishment. The band is not too choosy, either. He admits to playing at a girl’s 14th birthday party.
Raam said he saw rock as a force for social and political change in a country of 70 million people, where the median age is 25, access to satellite TV and the Internet is widespread and ineffectively censored, and the ideals of the Islamic revolution have less hold over a younger generation. Young people in Iran “just want to do things that normal kids do around the world,” Raam said. “They just want to listen to music, they want to dress nice, to party.”
Like many other unsigned bands, Hypernova has a MySpace page on the Web, with a list of musical influences almost entirely Western in origin. And all of its songs are written in English, though most of the members barely speak the language. “Farsi for me, it’s a really poetic and harmonious language,” Raam said, not one well-suited to the “harsh and really energetic rock sound.”
Raam largely stays off the topic of politics in interviews, but amid his hyperpaced lyrics is the occasional reference to world events. And perhaps even a disparaging remark about a president, though which president, in the context of an Iranian rock band playing in New York, remains open to interpretation.
The Times story has a sidebar video featuring the band performing in its first New York appearance.
What is it?
Answer here this time tomorrow.
Power Drill Garden and Yard Hole Auger
You can stop trying to count how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall — and drill your own.
Hard to believe it's time once again for fun in the garden.
From the website:
Garden and Yard Auger — Dig 4" Holes With Your Power Drill
Finally, a civilized way to dig holes for plants, bulbs or fence posts.
Just mount the Power Auger in your 3/8" or 1/2" power drill and a 3" or 4" hole is only minutes away.
Also great for planting vegetable or flower gardens.
Need to route a sprinkler hose or electrical cable under a sidewalk?
Just dig a clearance hole on either side of the sidewalk and then use the Power Auger horizontally to drill a passage hole for underground piping, etc.
Includes a 3"-dia. and a 4"-dia. auger (below) —
both measure 15" long.
Also includes one 26" extension.
Hex-end shaft won’t slip in drill chuck.
Auger bit can also be used to mix paint,
But wait — there's more!
Need more reach?
For an additional $4.95 apiece they'll sell you as many 26"-long extensions (below)
as you like.
Why not see if you can hit oil and end your reliance on foreign sources once and for all?
Support energy independence!
No, Flautist — you have to bring your own drill to the party.
John Makulowich's 'Awesome List'
He was profiled in a 1996 book, "Secrets of the Super Net Searchers: The Reflections, Revelations, and Hard-Won Wisdom of 35 of the World's Top Internet Researchers."
I just ordered a used copy (86 cents at Amazon) in the hope that it might offer a helpful morsel or three to my sad band of crack team researchers.
Not a whole lot of downside if it doesn't, really.
ShowerStart — Hot water that's ready when you are
From the website:
Saves Time and Money Every Day
Just turn the shower water on as usual but instead of wasting time waiting for the water to get hot, you can go about the business of getting ready.
Brush your teeth, press your pants or brew morning coffee.
ShowerStart senses when water gets hot and automatically shuts off water flow.
When you are ready to shower just flip the lever and the hot water will flow.
ShowerStart simply screws on between the shower head and the shower arm.
It's compatible with virtually all shower heads and will not restrict water flow.
Get one for each shower in your home.