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September 29, 2005

BehindTheMedspeak: Dermoscopy — Non-Invasive Melanoma Detection


In the August 16 New York Times Kate Murphy wrote about a revolution in dermatology currently underway in the United States.

We're a little bit behind the curve here: the technique is widely used in Europe, particularly in Germany and Austria, where it was developed in the 1980s.

It's called dermoscopy.

Only 23% of American dermatologists use it in their clinical practices.

Murphy wrote, "The technique, which involves using a specialized hand–held microscope called a dermoscope (below),


allows doctors to more accurately assess the likelihood that a mole or other skin growth is cancerous and therefore reduces the need for surgical excisions."

Why isn't it more widely used in the U.S.?

Duh: follow the money.

You can't bill very much for a look–see through a dermoscope.

Bring out the biopsy punch and scalpel, though, and the cash register starts to go crazy.

A paper published this year in the Journal of the American Academy of Dematology showed that dermoscopy improved doctors' accuracy by as much as 30% over clinical visual inspection.

Using the dermoscope reduces the number of moles that need to be removed by 20% to 50%.

That's a lot of green.

Fact: Only about 1 in 100 biopsies turns out to be melanoma.


That's a lot of extra surgery, not to mention the anxiety caused by a diagnosis of "possible melanoma."

And even if the biopsy turns out negative, insurance companies can — and do — deny coverage on the basis of a biopsy having been performed at all.

September 29, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Self–Leveling Sawhorse


Using 2.5" PVC pipe instead of the standard 2 x 6 board for its center section lets this unique sawhorse adjust to uneven terrain.


From the website:

• Height: 32.5"

• Weight: 25 lbs. per pair

• Colors: Red, Dark Blue, Yellow and Orange

• 1" x 2" legs are constructed from mild steel with a 0.065" wall thickness

• Legs are MIG–welded for increased strength and closed at the base


Easy to use: loosen the gib screw and allow the legs to self–level, then tighten it up.



$79.95 here.

September 29, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

$1 million in pennies


Ever wonder what that would look like?

I did and so I asked my crack research team to find out.

Above, what 100 million pennies ($1 million) look like.

Better clear your schedule for a few days while you put them into rolls 'cause guess what?

Just like banks don't take American Express, they won't be accepting your gigantic pile of loose change after you've dumped it on their front doorstep.

September 29, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Quick–Release Seat Belt Buckle Keyholder


"Keys stay put until you press the button, then slip back into the buckle with a satisfying "click."

Made of stainless steel.

Clips securely to any belt.

Holds up to three keyrings (one included).

3.25" x 1.75".

$14.98 here.

Might be just the finishing touch you need to make your look complete.

September 29, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

RingThing™ and PowerPod™


Above, two names for something I just invented.

Good news: the invention is yours for the taking.

If you don't like the names I thought up well hey, pick one you think will work better in the marketplace.

Because you can make money — real money — off this invention.

Without further ado, then, let's cut to the chase.

You know how the power plug into your PowerBook glows orange when it's charging and green when the computer's battery is fully charged?

It's a thing of beauty, is this feature.

But let's say, just for the heck of it, that you like to sleep in a pitch–black room.

I'm talking room–darkening shades, the whole nine yards.

Well, if you're like me you find the green glow of your PowerBook's plug connector bothersome even if, like me, you keep the computer under the bed.

The glow extends out and renders the room not pitch–black anymore.

Usually I simply ignore the faint light but this morning, while I was doing something close to nothing I thought wait a minute: why shouldn't it be possible to easily solve this problem?

So I did: I found a spool of thread whose core is just a hair wider than the PowerBook's plug, ran the plug through the spool, plugged it in and then slid the spool up close to the computer so it was all snuggly.

Lights out.

But that's not esthetic nor is it something you're gonna be able to market.

So that's why I've given you the concept and two names to get you started.

As I see it, the ideal device would be an opaque ring, perhaps a quarter inch wide, that attaches to the end of the plug with one of those little thingies so it doesn't get lost.

They'll come in all manner of colors and patterns and cost not very much.

Cool, eh?

Now take it and prosper.

September 29, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Möbius Strip Cuff Bracelet


Still mysterious to me is this geometric puzzle: how can a solid object have only one surface and one edge?

It confounded me when I was introduced to it as a boy and now, as a man, I believe it contains an essential key to the universe.

Go ahead, make one yourself, then run your finger along it until it comes back around to where you started, having traversed both sides of the loop.

Sterling silver with satin finish.

$250 here.



But not a Möbius strip.

See the comments on this post by Scott and ScienceChic setting things straight.

September 29, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Decoding your produce


Ever wonder what those four and five digit numbers on the annoying stickers on your fruits and vegetables mean?

Those numbers are the PLUs — Price Lookup Numbers.

Each is translated by the computer at the cash register into its particular type of apple or tomato.

But what do the numbers mean?

It's time to look behind the PLUs.

PLUs were created by the Produce Marketing Association and the International Federation for Produce Coding to form a global standard.

• Four–digit numbers denote conventionally grown produce

• Five digits beginning with a 9 mean organic

• Five digits beginning with an 8 mean genetically modified

Thus, a conventionally grown ear of corn might be marked 4078; an organic one, 94078; and a genetically modified version, 84078.

The numbers can also vary with the size of the fruit: 3069 indicates a small Gravenstein apple, and 3070 a large one.

More on PLUs here and here.

If you'd like to really explore the PLU space, as Bruce Dickinson might say, you can see more than 1,300 PLUs here.

September 29, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pour–Off Sieve


Now here's something I could've used since a long, long time ago.

I've long since lost count of the forearm and hand burns incurred and sink disasters resulting from failed attempts to drain hot foods.

But as George Eliot wrote, "It is never too late to be what you might have been."

So in that spirit I think I'll buy one after I finish this post.

The 13" stainless steel device drains water from pasta, vegetables or whatever else you might happen to be preparing.

The shape enables it to work with a wide variety of pots and pans.

$14.99 here.

September 29, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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