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February 20, 2006

The Song Tapper — 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic'


The oft–cited quotation above, from Arthur C. Clarke's 1961 book "Profiles of The Future," is also known as Clarke's third law.

Well, I am here to report that I have just seen magic, in the form of a "sufficiently advanced technology."

The Song Tapper is very simple: you click on the homepage where it says and then follow these instructions:

    Please tap the song's melody using your space bar.

    It may help to sing aloud while tapping.

No way, said I, but in the spirit of fun and science and with not a whole lot else to do right now I figured I could devote ten seconds to a little tapping.

Guess what?

The list of songs that came up included my song*.

I'm gobsmacked.

Have some fun, but remember: you really have no business doing this on the clock.

As if.

[via fresharrival.com]

*(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

February 20, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Mega Peeler


Sure, any old peeler will handle a carrot but what about a mango or a papaya, or butternut squash or those pumped–up mega–zucchini like the one pictured below that people bring in to work every Monday morning all summer long after a weekend in the garden?

I remember some of them being bigger than a football.

That's an awful lot of territory to cover with a 2"–wide blade.

Time to upgrade to peeling 21st–century style.

From the website:

    Even large produce like mangos, butternut squash and papayas are no match for this peeler, which features a supersharp ceramic blade a full 5" wide.

    This lightweight tool also makes efficient work of shaving hard cheeses or chocolate as well as shredding cabbage.

    Angled to provide optimal leverage, the noncorrosive blade won’t alter food flavors and retains its sharp edge ten times longer than steel.


    10" long.





As I was looking at this tool I got to thinking: what would it be like if you put a battery in the handle and made the world's first vibrating kitchen peeler?

But why stop there?

You could start multiplying blades and pretty soon you'd have the Gillette Cold Fusion™ Über–Peeler/Razor: Five vibrating 5"–long ceramic blades to both peel your fruits and vegetables and shave with, each task accomplished with a single sweep.


February 20, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Why is narcotic addiction rampant among anesthesiologists and surgeons?


Just in from reader Pete Wright, a story from the February 17 news@nature.com website about narcotic addiction in anesthesiologists and surgeons.

Since I began my anesthesiology residency back in the days of Harvey Cushing, drug addiction among anesthesiologists has been a subject of great concern.

During my residency several of my fellow residents were fired as a result of their drug use, usually narcotics.

During my subsequent faculty days, the problem continued with on average one resident — or faculty member — every year or two having to leave the department and enter rehab.

Some emerged able to function again in the OR; just as frequently, relapse resulted in their subsequent inability to practice anesthesiology.

In at least two of my former residents — one from when I was on the faculty at UCLA, the other from my days at the University of Virginia — addiction led to their deaths.

I know personally of other anesthesiologists whose dead bodies were discovered in call rooms or bathrooms in the hospital with narcotics, needles and syringes scattered in the vicinity.

What a scourge.

Because invariably it's the very best and smartest residents who seem to become addicted, a puzzle whose solution has eluded everyone in the field.

By far the most common drug to which anesthesiologists — and surgeons — become addicted is the relatively short–acting synthetic narcotic fentanyl.

It's 100 times more potent than morphine on a mg–for–mg basis: that is, 1/100 mg of fentanyl is equivalent to 1 mg of morphine.


Strong stuff.

Fentanyl is also an absolutely superb anesthetic which I would estimate I have employed in over 95% of the many thousands of anesthetics I've administered over the years.

It remains today my anesthetic of choice for both general anesthesia and use during monitored sedation.

Why do I use fentanyl routinely?

• I know what to expect with it

• It is easily titratable to an individual's needs

• It allows for rapid recovery when properly administered

• It enables a smooth intraoperative course in terms of cardiovascular function

• It provides excellent residual postoperative analgesia

The above would appear to justify my choice, don't you think?

But I digress.

From the time I began my residency, everyone in the specialty has tried to figure out why anesthesiologists have such high rates of addiction compared to other specialties.

For a while our professional society, the American Association of Anesthesiologists, tried to convince people with all manner of fancy studies and statistical massage that in fact it wasn't the case that our specialty was addiction–prone.

That smokescreen finally collapsed after too many reports of drug–addicted anesthesiologists from medical professional rehab centers.

Then the party line became the "kid in the candy store" explanation, to wit: we have easy and constant access to the drugs so it's obvious anesthesiologists would use them more than those who had a harder time obtaining them.

Allied with this school of thought was the "anesthesiology selects for those individuals with a tendency toward drug addiction" theory.

Again, who really knew?

Some departments even performed psychological testing on resident applicants (and for all I know still do) in an attempt to identify and weed out doctors who might show evidence of addictive personalities.

Now comes a most provocative hypothesis [jeez, joe, finally... sheesh, it takes you a while to get to the point, doesn't it? No wonder nobody comes here anymore...] from Drs. Mark Gold and Priscilla McAuliffe of the University of Florida School of Medicine in Gainesville.

These researchers propose that exposure to the vapors of fentanyl and other injectable, liquid anesthetics, resulting from their preparation for delivery — cracking open the glass ampoules and vials, spilled liquid on work surfaces, aerosolization by shooting overages into the air (something I do routinely, as each amp or bottle contains a little more than the stated quantity) — causes unintended and unnoticed inhalation of the drugs.

This sensitizes the brain's narcotic receptors and creates, in susceptible individuals, the basis for a need for the drugs that manifests itself as an addiction.

A stunning, inventive, and until proven not to be the case important new way of thinking about this problem.

Tell you what: in the future you can be sure I'm gonna make sure my mask is up before I draw up my fentanyl.


But then, how can I be certain that fentanyl molecules don't pass through the mask?

Here's Jim Giles' most interesting article.

    Operating-room opiates may get surgeons hooked

    Exposure to airborne drugs could increase a doctor's chance of becoming an addict.

    Do the faint traces of anaesthetics that waft around operating rooms somehow prime physicians to become drug addicts?

    It's not as unlikely a proposal as it sounds.

    US researchers who have promoted the theory have released their latest findings, and the results strengthen fears that exposure to aerosolized drugs puts anaesthetists and surgeons at risk.

    The new data comes from a trawl of records on health problems among medics working in Florida.

    Trainee surgeon Priscilla McAuliffe and colleagues at the University of Florida in Gainesville found that although anaesthetists make up less than 5% of the state's licensed physicians, they accounted for 12% of the 150 physicians who began treatment for substance abuse in 20021.

    Surgeons also made up a good chunk of the physicians being treated for addiction.

    And these surgeons disproportionately took the opiates used in anaesthetics as their drug of choice, the team has found.

    Whereas around 25% of all physicians treated for addiction were abusing opiates, among surgeons this figure was 40%.

    The data is particularly striking for a very common anaesthetic called fentanyl.

    Reporting their results in June last year at a meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence in Orlanda, Florida, McAuliffe's colleagues have found that 94% of physicians reporting addiction to fentanyl were anaesthetists or surgeons.

    Similar associations have been noticed before, and previously these results have been put down to the fact that anaesthetists and surgeons have easier access to opiates than most of their colleagues.

    But the University of Florida team, which sampled air from operating rooms, say that traces of gaseous anaesthetics could be the cause.

    In McAuliffe's paper, for example, fentanyl was found near the needles used to inject the drug and in the air exhaled by patients.

    Mark Gold, a psychiatrist at the University of Florida who has pioneered studies of the exposure hypothesis, says that research into other addictions suggests that the aerosolized opiates could be the root of the problem.

    Children of smokers are known to be more likely to take up smoking, for example.

    One cause is thought to be changes to areas of the brain involved in addiction, brought on by exposure to smoke.

    Gold's team is currently assessing whether fentanyl can be detected in the blood of surgeons and anaesthetists after they have worked in an operating room.

    "Length of procedure and dose of fentanyl and propofol administered during surgery are important variables," he says.

    "Anesthesiologists also have different practice habits. Some wear no mask even for an 8-hour procedure, and take no breaks whatsoever."

    "I think this finding is striking," says Martin Plant, an addiction researcher at the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK.

    "It charts the need for new research related to this fascinating but preliminary discovery."


You may recall the 2002 Moscow theatre hostage crisis: along with all of the 42 terrorists, 130 of the hostages died not as a result of anything the hostage–takers did but, rather, from the pharmacologic agent(s) used by the Russian Spetsnaz (special forces) before their armed assault.

Most accounts of the tragedy concluded that the Russians used aerosolized fentanyl [i.e., as a gas] as their primary agent to render those inside the auditorium unconscious before special forces stormed the building.

February 20, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Key Chain Battery Tester


From the website:

    Now you can easily check AA, AAA, C, D, 1.5– and 9–volt batteries with this compact tester.

    It has 3 LED lights that quickly tell you if the batteries are "strong," "ok," or "weak."

    3.5" x 1.1" with a convenient key chain.


A bookofjoe TechnoDolt™ Collection® selection.

$4.99 (batteries and key not included).

February 20, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Grand Canyon Skywalk — Episode 2: The view from the side


When last month I featured this under–construction (still in beta I guess is a fair equivalent, even though that phrase is usually reserved for bits rather than things atomic) marvel, the illustration was from the point of view of someone above the structure looking down to the canyon's floor.

That didn't quite capture the breathtaking actuality of this structure like the rendering above, from the just–published (March) issue of Wallpaper* magazine.

Construction delays, not unexpected when you're dealing with something so unique, have pushed back the scheduled opening from this summer, as stated by Wallpaper*, to near the end of 2006.

February 20, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Happy Tail Ale: Beer for Dogs — 'Share a beer with your best friend'


And why not?

I mean, what are friends for?

It's non–alcoholic with "just a hint of beef."

Watch the video for yourself before you scoff.

A six–pack is $9.99 — but shipping and handling add $14.94, for a grand total of $24.93 delivered.


But hey — it's for your dog, remember?

February 20, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Museo dell'Arpa [Harp Museum] Victor Salvi


Victor Salvi's father made harps in Viggiano, Italy.

The family emigrated to Chicago in 1913, where Victor was born in 1920.

He rose to the position of harpist for the New York Philharmonic under Arturo Toscanini and Dimitri Mitropoulos, then quit in his prime and left for Italy, where he began to make harps in Genoa.

What unfolded was nicely detailed in a story that appeared in the January 28 Economist; it follows.

    Lord of the Strings

    A new harp museum celebrates a remarkable invention

    The harp is such a handsome instrument that some are sold simply to decorate a room.

    Heretics who do not like the ethereal elegance of harp music often say that it looks better than it sounds.

    It is true that, compared with the piano, the range of its sound and its repertory are small — largely because a concert harp has only 47 strings while the average, modern piano has more than 230 for 88 keys.

    But there is no shortage of harpists, and sales of the instrument are rising steadily.

    Harps just for looking at can now be seen in a museum in a small town called Piasco, in the Alpine foothills of north–west Italy, not far from the French border.

    The museum is named after Victor Salvi, an energetic, balding figure with a grey beard, who was in Piasco recently to inspect the museum's premises, and to reminisce about a life dedicated to the harp.

    The instrument is in his blood.

    His father made harps in Viggiano, a town in the Campagna which grew prosperous from the manufacture and playing of musical instruments.

    In 1913, the family emigrated to Chicago, where Mr Salvi was born in 1920.

    By then, his elder brother was already playing the harp professionally.

    "The kid was a genius. He was making $1,000 a night, until the Depression."

    Mr Salvi was no mean player himself: harpist for the New York Philharmonic under Arturo Toscanini and Dimitri Mitropoulos.

    But Mr Salvi is a restless man, bubbling with curiosity and initiative.

    When he decided that the repertoire for orchestral harpists did not stretch him enough, he quit in his prime and left for Italy.

    He had repaired harps in New York; now he began to make them, in Genoa.

    His move to the country came because baroque-style furniture had been a speciality in Piasco and he wanted to exploit the skill of the cabinet-makers who lived there.

    The inlaid decorative woodwork of some of their harps has already turned them into museum pieces.


    To safeguard the supply of cow-gut for the harp strings, Mr Salvi bought a small British company that produced it. (It takes the gut of more than two cows to string one harp.)

    When Lyon & Healy, harpmakers in Chicago since 1889, were in trouble, Mr Salvi bailed them out.

    The Victor Salvi Foundation was set up in 2000, by which time Mr Salvi had become the world's great impresario of the harp.

    The foundation, run by his Colombian wife Julia, awards scholarships, sponsors competitions and commissions new work.

    Students can rent a harp, and Mr Salvi notes that most of them are now young women — smaller hands are more agile over the strings.

    The museum houses a couple of dozen of the many harps that Mr Salvi has purchased on his travels.

    "I never thought about having a collection. I bought harps because they were so beautiful," he says.

    There are historic pieces, such as the double–action pedal harp made by Sébastian Erard, a Parisian who fled to London during the French Revolution. (Seven pedals at the base of the sound-box enable a harpist to raise the pitch of each string by one or two semi-tones in a range of 6½ octaves.)

    Perhaps the most beautiful of all is a harp made in 1820 by John Egan in Dublin, which incorporates some of Erard's innovations without losing the graceful lines that caused the harp to be chosen as the emblem of the Irish nation and of Arthur Guinness's stout.

    Mr Salvi bought it in an Oxford antique shop when taking his son to university.


    Victor Salvi's harp museum celebrates musical perfection — and is a memorial to a remarkable life.

    Museo dell'Arpa Victor Salvi is at Via Rossana, 7, Piasco, Italy. Tel: + 39 0175 2705101. Further information is available at www.museodellarpavictorsalvi.it

February 20, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Instant Screened Room


No flies on you once you pop this puppy open.

From the website:

    So compact it fits in a bag the size of a suitcase, this enclosure pops open instantly, transforming into a screened–in room large enough to accommodate 10 adults.

    The fully-opened room has mesh sides and a covered roof to provide a breezy shelter that stays cool but blocks out sun and insects at the beach, in the backyard, at a park or wherever you take it.

    The door zips open for quick access and the room can be secured to the ground with four stakes (not included).

    When it’s time to stow it away, the spring–steel frame simply folds down in six easy steps.

    Includes carrying case.

    Black with blue.

    Opened dimensions: 72"H x 72"W x 72"D.

    Closed dimensions: 2.5"H x 30"W x 30"L.

    11 lbs.

How do you spell par–tay?

Reduced from $69.95 to $49.95.

February 20, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

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