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July 16, 2005

Extreme Golf — The 'Heat Stroke Invitational'


It's held every summer at the Furnace Creek Golf Course (above) in beautiful Death Valley, California.

Matt Utter, a group sales manager at the Silverstone Golf Club in Las Vegas, Nevada, joins a group of friends there annually to participate.

He says the group has yet to lose any member to heat stroke.

Or, as he put in Otto Pohl's July 1 Wall Street Journal story, "If you're going to play Death Valley, you might as well play it when there's a chance you might die."

I like it.

The Furnace Creek management offers a real deal: for a nominal greens fee of $25 they provide carts, clubs, balls, tees, unlimited bottled water and a chance to experience a unique "thermal challenge."


Prospective duffers should know beforehand that temperatures routinely reach 115° — in the shade.

July 16, 2005 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hidden Camera Detector


When you get big — really big, as Neil Young would say — you have people who handle this sort of thing for you.

But if you're not quite at that level — and hey, I feel your pain, I was small too once — then you need to protect yourself from having pictures taken which, once you're important and famous, might well appear on the cover of People magazine or the Enquirer, much to your embarrassment and dismay.

    From the website:

    Are you being watched without your knowledge?

    With our handheld radio frequency detector, you can do an instant sweep of your home, hotel room or office and find out for sure.

    Our detector reads the wireless radio waves transmitted by surveillance cameras and alerts you with a blinking LED light and an audible alarm.

    The built–in sensitivity tuner automatically scans variable distances and multiple channels and its advanced circuitry eliminates background noise, minimizing false alarms.

    Detect nearly the entire radio broadcast spectrum from 50MHz to 3GHz.

    Only 3" long and 0.5" thick, it easily fits in your pocketbook or case.

Powered by button cell batteries (included).

$39.98 here.


A small price to pay for what you might have to lose twenty years hence.

July 16, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Modern methods of pain control can kill you


Color me old–fashioned but if I should happen to have surgery and then require serious pain medication post–operatively, I will refuse any and all modern inventions such as patient–controlled analgesia (PCA), continuous epidural infusion or narcotic skin patches.


Because these new, "better" methods of relieving pain have a dark side not appreciated by the great majority of patients and physicians who use them: they can kill you and they have a much higher likelihood of doing so than an old–fashioned, low–tech shot of morphine or Demerol in the butt every three or four hours when it starts to hurt again.

But guess what: there's zero profit in the old drugs and methods; the new developments mean huge profits and income for doctors, hospitals and, above all the drug companies manufacturing the components required for the more modern methods.

Here's the problem in a nutshell: because all of the new methods are not under direct human supervision or control but rely instead on technology, they are only as good as the technology.

And guess what: sometimes technology doesn't work like it's supposed to.

Like the PCA pumps that mistakenly deliver ten or a hundred times more narcotic than prescribed because they were incorrectly programmed or because someone wasn't paying attention when they put the narcotic into the infusion bag.

Like the epidural pumps that suddenly infuse a huge bolus for the same reason.

Or the skin patches that inadvertently are placed too close to a source of heat, increasing blood flow to the skin and resulting in an unintended delivery of a bolus of narcotic to the patient's bloodstream and brain.

Bottom line: a large dose of respiratory depressant in the form of a narcotic is delivered to the breathing centers in the brainstem; they respond appropriately — in a physiological sense — and shut down respiration.

You know the rest.

Issues with the narcotic patch recently caught the attention of the FDA: yesterday it issued a warning that "painkilling skin patches could cause drug overdoses," according to Denise Grady's story in today's New York Times.

Here's a frightening statistic: The FDA is currently investigating 120 deaths said to have occurred since 1990 as a result of the use of Duragesic patches, which contain the very powerful synthetic narcotic fentanyl, fully 100 times as potent as morphine.

Let's do the math: that's 8 deaths a year.

And those are just the ones reported, probably a tenth — at most — of those that occurred and weren't reported or were attributed to other causes.

And that doesn't include the far larger number of people who incurred brain damage due to cerebral anoxia but didn't die as a result of their overdoses.

But perhaps you'll understand why the FDA's not looked into this up to now when you consider another bit of math: the fact that Duragesic had sales of more than $2 billion last year, according to Grady's story.

As I said, call me a Luddite but I'll take my shots, thank you very much.

July 16, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Teddy Bear Camera


The 21st–century version of the Trojan Horse.

"Aw, you shouldn't have – it's so cute."

Not really.

    From the website:

    Plush bear has miniature video camera hidden in its right eye.

    Transmit live color picture and sound wirelessly to any room in the house and any TV in the house up to 150 feet away.

    Connect receiver to TV to view in real time or attach to VCR to record while you're away.

    Camera works on battery power or household current for easy portability.

    Hooks up in minutes.

System includes:

• Teddy bear with camera and wireless transmitter with battery box, AC adapter jack, on/off switch and four channel selector

• Wireless receiver with AV output jack, AC adapter jack, on/off switch and four channel selector

• AV cable with audio and video input connectors

Receiver uses one 9-V battery (not included).

Teddy bear is 12" tall; 100% polyester.


$149.97 here.

July 16, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Staples Wordlock


Kevin Kelly of Cool Tools writes:

    Why didn't we think of this earlier?

    A lock with a password.

    Much easier to remember.

    Because there are only 10 letters per ring, you are limited to a mere 1,000 dictionary words and names.

    I could not program my usual password, or my favorite names, but I did code in a memorable nonsense word, of which many abound.

    The mechanism has the heft of your standard gym locker lock.

From the website:

• Easy–to–use, easy–to–remember combination lock.

• Choose your combination from over 1,000 four– or five–letter words — anything from ALIEN and CHILI to SALSA and SARAH

• You can reset the combination at any time

• Instructions and sample word list inside

• Secure and durable, for indoor or outdoor use

$5.98 here.

[via Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools]


Note added 6:41 a.m. Tuesday, July 19:

Yesterday this post was featured on engadget, which pointed out that there are 100,000 (10 to the 5th = 100,000) possible letter combinations.


The 1,000 alluded to by me, Kevin Kelly and the Staples website, in our respective descriptions, refers to the "sample word list" that comes with the WordLock.

July 16, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

"Legends" — by Robert Littell


"A novel of dissimulation" is the subtitle of this remarkable book.

Robert Littell, along with John le Carré and Gerald Seymour rank as my three favorite authors of spy and espionage–related fiction currently writing in the English language.

I don't quite know what to do with Lorraine Adams, whose first novel, "Harbor," was astonishingly good; once she brings forth her next book (sooner rather than later, please, if you don't mind) and it's anywhere near her initial effort I'll add her to the Olympian heights of excellence.

Once upon a time Charles McCarry lived there but he's deteriorated markedly with each succeeding book in the past decade.

Robert Littell's first novel, "The Defection of A.J. Lewinter," was superb and he has continued to produce work of high quality though his early books, most notably "The October Circle," "The Amateur" and "The Sisters," still seem his strongest.

That is, before this new one, his fourteenth novel.

Long story short: it's the story of one Martin Odum, who once worked for the CIA.

Martin had other legends, as it were, during his CIA career; Dante Pippen and Lincoln Dittmann were the other lives he led.

But Martin now has a problem: he almost remembers things that should have been forgotten along with the discarded legends.

Such remembering could potentially cause enormous difficulties for the CIA.

So while the CIA simply wants Martin to go to ground and quietly live out his life in retirement, Martin is troubled by things he almost remembers but not quite.

Things that cause him to wake up every night in a cold sweat, shaking.

He decides to walk back the cat, as it were.

And so the novel proceeds.

Littell is a master of dialogue and characterization and the book is alternately scary and laugh out loud hilarious.

    Here's the first paragraph:

    They had finally gotten around to paving the seven kilometers of dirt spur connecting the village of Prigorodnaia to the four–lane Moscow–Petersburg highway. The local priest, surfacing from a week–long binge, lit beeswax tapers to Innocent of Irkutsk, the saint who in the 1720s had repaired the road to China and was about to bring civilization to Prigorodnaia in the form of a ribbon of macadam with a freshly painted white stripe down the middle. The peasants, who had a shrewder idea of how Mother Russia functioned, thought it more likely that this evidence of progress, if that was the correct name for it, was somehow related to the purchase, several months earlier, of the late and lamented Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria's sprawling wooden dacha by a man identified only as the Oligarkh. Next to nothing was known about him. He came and went at odd hours in a glistening black Mercedes S–600 sedan, his shock of silver hair and dark glasses a fleeting apparition behind its tinted windows. A local woman hired to do laundry was said to have seen him angrily flick cigar ashes from the crow's–nest rising like a turret from the dacha before turning back to issue instructions to someone. The woman, who was terrified of the dacha's newfangled electric washing machine and scrubbed the laundry in a shallow reach of the river, had been too far away to make out more than a few words — "Buried, that's what I want, but alive..." — but they and the Oligarkh's feral tone had dispatched a chill down her spine that made her shudder every time she recounted the story.

This is a superb bedtime reading book and served me admirably in that capacity for the past two weeks.

July 16, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



"Quadrophenia" (pictured above) arrived yesterday along with the Shure E2C earphones.

First thing I did was listen to "Tommy" one more time, but with the new phones as opposed to the Sony ones that came with the the "flying saucer" discman.


Much, much better sound and absolutely no distortion even at maximum volume, which wasn't achievable with the Sonys without tremendous fuzz and buzz.

The new phones are super comfortable too, using the ear pieces as they came right out of the box: I haven't even bothered trying any of the many different sizes enclosed for optimum fit.

Then to "Quadrophenia."

Full disclosure: I can't get past disc 1 of the two disc set.

I'm still playing the first one over and over and over.

So beautiful, such wonderful musicianship.

My sense of Pete Townshend's guitar playing, now that I'm really hearing it for the very first time, is that it's every bit as lyrical and beautiful as that of The Edge, who's guitar work seems to be the gold standard nowadays for great sound.

I'll eventually get to disc 2, not to worry.

I'm in no rush.

In this, as in almost everything I do, I feel I have all the time in the world.

Taking your time is essential.

Nothing much good happens in a hurry.

July 16, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NFL Schedule Watch


"You'll have the entire schedule — every single game of your favorite team — strapped to your wrist."

Comes with your team's official logo and colors.

• See match–ups and starting times — never miss a game again

• National Anthem plays at kickoff time!

"New schedule modules available each season for ingenious fan fun year after year."


$79.98 here.

July 16, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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