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February 1, 2006

Tab Junkies — 'The ability to spot the pink'

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That's what David Edelstein, the film critic for New York magazine, says is essential for the die–hard Tab fan.

The venerable diet drink's manufacturer, Coca–Cola, makes it difficult — but not impossible — to obtain Tab and has thereby created a cult.

In fact, the above definition is as good as any I've ever seen of how to grow a cult.

No wonder I'm getting nowhere — anyone anywhere can check out what's going on here and declare her- or himself a joehead.

That's no Black Card or Tab thing going on.

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No matter.

Ben McGrath, in the new (February 6) issue of the New Yorker's Talk of the Town section, spent some quality time with a few members of the secret Tab society (Gotham chapter) and came away with the distinct impression that some regular drinkers partake because it's probably unhealthy and tastes terrible.

Huh — you could say that about lots of things — but I won't.

And yes, since you asked nicely: you can leave your hat on.

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But it'll cost you $15.99.

February 1, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Remote Control Golf Ball — 'World's most advanced practical joke golf ball'

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I have no reason to doubt this claim, not after reading the following on the product's website:

    More sophisticated than mundane golf stunts, this is the world’s most advanced practical joke golf ball.

    Detailed to resemble a real golf ball, it zigs and zags at a touch of the remote control, allowing you to fool golf partners as they watch putts drift wide of the cup at your command.

    The joystick on the discrete remote control lets you direct the ball within a 100' range.

    The ball can operate on three different, selectable frequencies, allowing you to race two at a time.

    Runs on the included 1.2-volt NiMH rechargeable battery for up to four hours on a single charge; the transmitter requires one 9V battery, and the recharger [top] requires two AA batteries.

    Remote: 3"H x 4"W x 8.5" L; weight: 9 oz.

********************

Too bad the website doesn't have the great picture in the paper catalog, of the golf ball suddenly veering to the side as it approaches the cup.

Better be careful whom you use this with: I've played with people who'd give you a 9-iron bow tie for far less.

Two balls and two transmitters (for racing, booboo) will set you back $39.95 here.

February 1, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Oh my gosh, Joe wrote me!'

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I am so ready to just curl up in a cozy, warm ball and end bookofjoe right here and now.

Why?

Because it won't ever get any better than the page I just espied (above).

"Hilarious, insightful, zen...."

Moi?

Then Babita added, "I know he's just a normal guy who has a thing on the internet...."

See — told you I was normal.

What — you're still not convinced?

Some people....

February 1, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

World's most technical measuring scoop

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The runner–up's not even in the same area code.

From the website:

    Swissmar® Nuscüp™ Wet/Dry Measuring Scoop

    The first ever adjustable tool to measure both liquid and dry ingredients.

    Shortening, peanut butter, honey — how they love to stick in the measuring cup!

    Not a problem with this Swiss-designed measuring tool.

    Just press the button forward and ingredients are scraped out of the cup and into your bowl.

    Polycarbonate with magnetic bottom.

    Dishwasher–safe.

    Measures from 2 to 9 tablespoons; 1/8 to 1/2 cup; or 1 to 4 fluid ounces.

    7"L.

In Clear, Topaz or Red.

$11.95 here.

Feeling blue?

No problema.

We can get that for you.

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$15.95 here.

February 1, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

'Does your company's website stink?' — Free Website Makeover Contest

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Tom Niccum, the driving force behind LancetCard™, is making you an offer you shouldn't refuse.

As the company's contest website notes, "The worse the website, the better your chances to win!"

Hey, this Bizarro World thing is viral, what?

[via Tom Niccum and LancetCard]

February 1, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Loc8tor: Smart dust, writ large — but not for long

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You attach the Loc8tor's 20-mm-long (0.79") tracking beacons (above, left) to anything you like — kids, a cellphone, a TV remote, whatever.

Then you sit back and view the tagged object's direction and distance from you on the device's screen.

Accurate to an inch up to 500 feet away.

Just wait until the beacons are pinhead–sized and cost a penny each, accurate world–wide and trackable on your watch or cellphone.

Don't think that's gonna happen?

Then your eyes must be closed — 'cause you're dreaming.

The Loc8tor will cost $170 here — if and when it ever becomes available.

Real soon now.

[via Brian Lam and Wired magazine]

February 1, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Defibrillation in Las Vegas — 'The safest place in America to suffer sudden cardiac arrest is a casino'

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So says Dr. Bryan Bledsoe, an E.R. doctor at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. and co–author of paramedic textbooks.

He was quoted in Kevin Helliker's excellent January 28 front–page Wall Street Journal Pursuits section story on Las Vegas's bleeding–edge approach to the problem of gamblers dropping dead — or trying to — in its casinos.

It's worth reading if you've been hesitating about visiting Vegas because of all the excitement.

Could be the best thing that ever happened to you even if you don't hit the slots jackpot.

Here's the article.

    Beating the Odds

    How a gamble on defibrillators turned Las Vegas into the safest place to have your heart give out.

    When he thinks of all the places he might have suffered cardiac arrest, Jack Barlich feels lucky.

    If his heart had stopped at home, in a store or at city hall in Del Rey Oaks, Calif., where he was mayor, he might be dead.

    Instead, it stopped as he was playing a winning poker hand at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

    What happened next that day in May 2003 impressed his wife, Irene.

    Security guards arrived within seconds, ascertained that he had no pulse and shocked his heart with a defibrillator.

    Five jolts later, it was beating again.

    "Thank goodness I'm a gambler," says Mr. Barlich, now 69 years old.

    At a time when some big companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are just experimenting with keeping portable defibrillators around, a pioneer and the unrivaled model of the practice is the casino industry.

    Las Vegas casino security officers have restored the heartbeats of about 1,800 gamblers and employees in the past nine years, according to the Clark County Fire Department.

    Medical research shows that casino visitors whose hearts suddenly stop survive at higher rates even than people who happen to go into cardiac arrest while visiting a hospital.

    "The safest place in America to suffer sudden cardiac arrest is a casino," says Bryan Bledsoe, a George Washington University emergency-medicine doctor and co-author of textbooks for paramedics.

    All along the Strip, large casinos have the devices, technically known as automatic external defibrillators.

    Casinos' security officers have become so adept with them that they usually decline offers of aid from physician bystanders.

    "The average radiologist or obstetrician isn't as well trained as our security officers," says David Slattery, an emergency-medicine physician who oversees the defibrillator program at MGM Mirage's 23 casinos.

    Mirage security officers Dave Kurau and Craig Kahrs have shocked five stalled hearts back to life each, as has Jeff Fiti at Harrah's Entertainment Inc.'s Rio casino.

    Casinos' experience is contributing to calls for wider distribution and use of defibrillators across the country.

    The American Heart Association has just endorsed use of the devices by lay people, shifting from a policy that called for oversight by doctors.

    Singling out the casinos' experience, the AHA said in a published statement last month that lay-person use of the devices is now shown to improve survival.

    Defibrillation is far from a foolproof response to the dramatic crisis of sudden heart stoppage.

    Researchers have found that about 53% of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest at casinos survive.

    While that rate far outstrips the national average survival from sudden cardiac arrest of well under 10%, even the best efforts of casino staffs mean that nearly half of stricken gamblers don't make it.

    Defibrillation works best in concert with chest compressions.

    Some critics take a jaundiced view of the gambling industry's close embrace of portable defibrillators.

    "Casinos are just saving gamblers so that these people can return to casinos and lose more money," says David Robertson, a board member of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling.

    It's also not clear how relevant the experience of casinos is to other industries.

    Casinos' patrons are constantly under watch by security staffers sitting at screens in hidden rooms, making possible an instant response to a crisis.

    Casinos also are likelier venues for cardiac arrest, because of the size and age of the crowds that jam into them.

    Nearly 75% of visitors to Las Vegas in 2004 were over age 40.

    Some further elevate their risk by indulging in spates of heavy smoking and drinking while giving short-shrift to sleep.

    The "Vegas Syndrome," it's called.

    Jim Alexander was working security at the Stardust about five years ago when a call sent him running to the stage of a ballroom-dancing competition, defibrillator in hand.

    The male half of a dancing pair had collapsed.

    After the defibrillator showed the man had no heartbeat, Mr. Alexander pushed a button and stood back while the device delivered a shock that brought back a pulse -- and an ovation from onlookers.

    "I felt like I'd won the whole contest," Mr. Alexander says.

    U.S. law requires defibrillators in federal office buildings and commercial airliners, whose flight attendants have a strong track record with them.

    Some states require them in health clubs as well.

    But overall, fewer than 10% of U.S. public and private organizations keep one of the devices about, according to consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

    Wal-Mart Stores, for one, says it is researching the idea of having defibrillators on hand in some stores.

    Corporate reluctance to buy defibrillators is no mystery, because the move essentially says a company is taking responsibility for emergencies that otherwise would belong to paramedics.

    "Companies that consider deploying them are almost universally concerned about risk," says Richard Lazar, chief executive of a consulting firm called AED Risk Insights in Portland, Ore.

    Casinos' embrace of the devices owes a big debt to the efforts of a paramedic at the Clark County Fire Department, Richard Hardman.

    A decade ago, he realized that about 50% of the cardiac-arrest episodes his department dealt with took place at casinos.

    Mr. Hardman and fellow paramedics often found themselves arriving too late to help at the scene of a casino cardiac-arrest case.

    Invariably, standing next to the deceased victim was a casino security officer.

    At the time, defibrillators simple enough for a lay person to use were just coming on to the market.

    Mr. Hardman began thinking of trying to put the devices into the hands of the casino security officers themselves.

    Among other virtues, the idea seemed to him a possible way to compensate for a personal failure.

    As a young man, Mr. Hardman had gone to the University of Arizona planning to become a physician, but never made it and ended up working as a paramedic instead.

    "I'd turned left when maybe I should have turned right," says the tall, boyish-looking 42-year-old.

    Now, he figured his plan for defibrillators in casinos had the potential to make a bit of a splash and get noticed, perhaps even throughout the world of U.S. cardiac medicine.

    For that to happen, though, Mr. Hardman knew he'd need not only to get defibrillators into casinos but to obtain independent data on their use there.

    Nobody in cardiology would ever take his word about the results, or that of casinos.

    So he visited his Arizona alma mater hoping to interest someone in doing a study of defibrillator use in casinos.

    He quickly found an enthusiast: Terence Valenzuela, a doctor specializing in rapid response to sudden cardiac arrest.

    Casinos seemed to Dr. Valenzuela an ideal laboratory to study the use of defibrillators by lay people.

    He also liked the idea that this research was being proposed not by the defibrillator industry but by a paramedic.

    Dr. Valenzuela himself serves as medical director of the Tucson Fire Department.

    He agreed to design and lead a study.

    For Mr. Hardman, now came the hard part: persuading a casino company to cooperate.

    For months, he made little headway.

    The casinos worried they could be held liable if the product didn't work or one of their security officers didn't use it right.

    "There were concerns," says the director of risk management for Harrah's, Jerry LaChapelle.

    "This was new technology."

    Finally, with the help of a local cardiologist named Keith Boman, Mr. Hardman figured out how to pitch the idea: Explain to casino executives that the device would be delivering a shock only to someone who had no pulse or breath -- and thus technically was "clinically dead."

    Defibrillators are built so that if a person's heart still is beating, they won't deliver a shock.

    The pitch won over Stan Smith [top], vice president of risk management for Boyd Gaming Corp., operator of the Stardust in Las Vegas and other casinos.

    The company was mounting a plan to improve customer service.

    "Saving a customer's life -- what's that if not customer service?" Mr. Smith says.

    Mr. Smith committed seven casinos to a defibrillator experiment.

    Mr. Hardman, Dr. Boman and a team from Arizona trained their security officers, and then everybody sat back and waited.

    Mr. Smith, however, was increasingly uneasy.

    Having persuaded his company's top brass to go along with the experiment, he now worried it could backfire.

    What if video monitoring didn't spot a collapsing gambler?

    What if security officers failed to act quickly, or forgot how to operate the device?

    To avoid such a medical and possibly legal catastrophe, Mr. Smith developed an unorthodox plan: He began acting the role of a collapsed patron, forcing his staff to treat him as if he were a stricken gambler.

    He even collapsed in a pool, to make sure the security officers would remember to dry him off before attaching the defibrillator electrodes.

    Two months passed.

    Then a 63-year-old North Carolina textile worker named Thurman Austin came to Las Vegas with his wife in July of 1997.

    Mr. Austin gambled until late, rose early and smoked practically nonstop.

    He thought little of an episode of chest pain that came and went.

    But as Mr. Austin played slots one afternoon at the Stardust, he blacked out and cracked his head on a machine as he tumbled to the floor.

    In less than three minutes, Stardust security officers were delivering a shock to Mr. Austin's chest.

    He remembers coming to.

    "I could hear everybody, especially my wife, but at first I couldn't see anything," he says.

    When Mr. Austin learned that the Stardust was one of just seven casinos taking part in the defibrillator experiment, he marveled at his good fortune: He wasn't even staying at that hotel but had dropped by to play just moments before the attack.

    "I really hit the jackpot that day," he says.

    The next day, Boyd Gaming held a news conference, which the local news media covered, in which Mr. Austin's wife, Gwynn, credited the Stardust with saving her husband's life.

    Soon, Mr. Hardman and others involved in the experiment began hearing from other casinos interested in joining their research.

    "The same casino operators who had declined to join the study earlier now were calling us and wanting us to train their security officers," says Lani Clark, an assistant of Dr. Valenzuela's who helped conduct the experiment.

    Mr. Smith reckons that the success of Boyd-owned casinos put legal pressure on competitors.

    But other companies say the reverse was true -- they moved ahead in spite of opposition from their own attorneys.

    At MGM Mirage, for instance, spokesman Alan Feldman says the program didn't thrill company attorneys, "but it just seemed like the right thing to do, and you can't become frozen out of fear of liability."

    Dr. Valenzuela, who generally is highly skeptical of corporate intentions, is convinced that in this case, the casinos' motive was simply to save lives, since "the operators' own attorneys were telling them not to do this."

    The drive got two other assists: The state's "good Samaritan law," giving legal protection to bystanders who help in a medical emergency, was extended to explicitly cover users of defibrillators, after lobbying by casinos and Mr. Hardman.

    Most states have since copied the move.

    In addition, Mr. Hardman arranged a donation to casinos of about 30 defibrillators by Physio-Control, a manufacturer now owned by Medtronic Inc.

    At Clark Country Fire Department, Deputy Chief Steven Hanson says the defibrillator program brought a reversal in casino-industry attitudes.

    Before, operators treated emergency vehicles as a distraction and steered them to service entrances: "They didn't want a big fire truck out front with its lights on."

    After they themselves had a role in handling emergencies, they "made a 180-degree turn in helping us deal with this problem," he says.

    A spokeswoman for MGM Mirage, Yvette Monet, says it has "always taken medical emergencies seriously, but as the size of our resorts, the number of visitors and consequently the number of these incidents grew, we saw the need to adopt a comprehensive [defibrillator] program that would serve our guests' best interests."

    Defibrillators -- made by companies including Medtronic and Philips Electronics NV, and sometimes buyable without a doctor's prescription -- don't work with all cardiac arrests.

    They are effective almost solely on patients who face ventricular fibrillation, a condition in which electrical disorders or coronary-artery disease causes the heart to suddenly stop pumping blood and just quiver.

    Ventricular fibrillation had been thought to lie behind about half of sudden cardiac arrests.

    But in the study that Dr. Valenzuela and others did of casinos' defibrillator use -- published in the New England Journal of Medicine in October 2000 -- it turned out to account for 105 out of 148 episodes.

    Doctors consider this a promising finding, since that form of cardiac arrest is treatable with defibrillation and thus has a better survival rate.

    In the casino study, 56 of the 105 patients whose cardiac arrest was due to ventricular fibrillation survived, defined as having been discharged from the hospital.

    The survival rate rose to 74% when a defibrillator was used within three minutes of the collapse.

    A nagging question about such patients is whether they'll suffer neurological damage from the lack of blood to the brain while their heart wasn't pumping.

    Although the casino study didn't test for this, the vast majority of the 56 survivors "went back to the lives they had led before," says Dr. Valenzuela.

    "Those with big neurological deficits tended to die in the hospital."

    The study's survival rate astonished specialists in emergency medicine.

    "This was ground-breaking -- it showed what can be accomplished with quick response," says Leonard Cobb, professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Washington and the father of Seattle's paramedic program, widely hailed as the fastest-reacting big-city operation in the country.

    Any notion that the result was a fluke seemed to be disproved by subsequent research on defibrillator use by lay people, such as a 2002 study of use by bystanders at Chicago airports, which found comparable success.

    Today, every big casino operator owns dozens of defibrillators, gives security officers extensive training in them and employs doctors to oversee the programs.

    Harrah's says that in its latest fiscal year, security people had 27 saves out of 47 defibrillator shocks at its casinos, which number about 25.

    Saving a life "gives you the warm and fuzzies," says the company's Mr. LaChapelle.

    MGM Mirage says it has a similar success rate and a response time averaging 2.8 minutes from collapse to shock.

    As companies in other industries begin to adopt defibrillators, many are taking a page from casinos in making certain employees responsible for using and maintaining the devices.

    Security staffs are being turned into emergency medical responders at some big shopping malls and corporate offices.

    Procter & Gamble Co. was an early adopter, acquiring defibrillators at headquarters in Cincinnati in 2000.

    It says it revived three people the first year and several more since.

    The cost of defibrillators keeps falling.

    Priced at about $3,000 when the casino study began, they now can sometimes be bought in bulk for just over $1,000 each.

    Mr. Hardman, still a fire-department paramedic, also now does some consulting for casino industry, which he says earns him less than $10,000 a year.

    He says he no longer feels haunted by his failure to become a doctor.

    He was listed as an author on the New England Journal of Medicine study, and doubts that as a physician he could have been involved in anything more important.

    "To be thanked by people who say you saved their lives -- that's extremely gratifying," he says.

********************

Cardiac arrests are my specialty.

I've been called STAT to hundreds over the years, in hospitals on both coasts.

The survival rate is dismal.

So the success of the Las Vegas experiment leads me to suggest that hospitals around the country hire Richard Hardman (below, as you'd see him after a successful debrillation)

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to come and straighten things out.

As things stand now there is little — if any — downside to such an approach.

February 1, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Portable Sauna

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Just because you live in a bandbox apartment with bozo roommates doesn't mean you can't chill (remember — we're in the Bizarro World here) in this nifty creation that you can haul around the world with you as you ascend the corporate ladder, crashing through glass ceilings and laughing all the way to the bank.

From the website:

    Two–Person Home Sauna

    Unlike most home saunas, this unit fits into small spaces and can be set up in a few hours without the inconvenience of extensive home remodeling.

    Made from kiln–dried red cedar and stainless–steel hardware, the sauna is large enough to seat two people and can be set up in a bathroom, bedroom, recreation room, garage or an outdoor location such as a backyard or by a pool.

    This centuries–old Scandinavian custom helps improve circulation, relax muscles, burn calories, relieve arthritic pain, cleanse skin and relieve stress.

    Like all true saunas, this model uses hot rocks to create heat.

    Relative humidity levels are controlled by the bather sprinkling water on the hot rocks — a gentle method of heat radiation that prevents the uncomfortable "electric toaster" feel of electrically–heated saunas.

    Breathable, solid wood construction ensures the interior surface temperature is kept low while delivering penetrating heat that soothes and relaxes.

    Free air flow design uses natural convection to bring fresh air into the heater from below and to disperse it inside the sauna, promoting quick warm–up time and energy efficiency.

    Includes internal thermometer (sauna maximum temperature is 200°F) and wall light.

    Plugs into a dedicated 230V-30A circuit.

    Do not place on carpeted surfaces.

    Some assembly required.

    84" H x 54" Diameter.

    Weight: 530 lbs.

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"Want to come up and see my sauna?"

That's different.

$2,999.95 here.

February 1, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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