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October 30, 2007

BehindTheMedspeak: Sigmatism

No, not astigmatism.

And not Six Sigma either, as long as we're on the subject of things it's not.

Sigmatism is "The flaw in pronouncing a sibilant S," wrote C. Claiborne Ray today in her consistently informative, concise and enjoyable weekly "Q&A" feature in the Science section of the New York Times; here's the piece.

    Whence the Whistle?

    Q. Can there be a nutritional or physical reason for the sudden onset of a whistling “S” in an adult’s speech?

    A. The answer is almost certainly physical rather than nutritional, unless the sufferer happened to eat a cavity-causing diet that led to dental work.

    The flaw in pronouncing a sibilant S, which speech therapists call sigmatism, can follow even minor changes to the way the tongue aligns with the teeth. As a result of either too small a gap or too large a gap between the biting edges of the front teeth, the air forced through the gap in pronouncing the S sound can produce an extra whistle.

    In an adult, a newly whistling S is not a result of an inborn defect in the speech mechanism or an error in speaking. Rather, it results from a subtle shift in the mouth that makes old speech habits produce new sounds, speech therapists say. The unwanted whistling or pronounced hissing is especially evident when normal speech is amplified by a microphone.

    Speech exercises can help the speaker adjust to the new alignment and retrieve the accustomed sound. But dentists and dental surgeons should be aware of the risk in tinkering with the intersection where the tongue touches the teeth.


The caption for the video up top: "Charlie Palloy is a real obscurity. Obviously he modeled his style on Russ Columbo, but all we know is that he played guitar, led a band for a while, and recorded for the short-lived Crown label. His careful pronunciation of an 's' borders on the sibilant." — Ian Whitcomb, a well-known performer and music historian.

October 30, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mutant Y-Adapter


Sometimes when you come to a fork in the road, neither option is particularly appealing.

That's the philosophy behind this latest illustration of the mutagenic properties of electricity.

We've seen similar things before but each time it occurs in a new form it's worth reporting.

Without further ado, then, from the website:

    Three-Way Y-Adapter

    This simple adapter splits the power from a single outlet.

    Usable at the end of an extension cord or directly in a wall socket, it is rated to 15 amps (125 volts and 1875 watts) and has a heavy-duty 12-gauge cord.

    About 24" long overall, it has a UV-stable, abrasion-resistant sheathing that remains flexible in cold weather.

    A great method for connecting a cordless tool transformer and powering corded tools simultaneously.

    UL/CUL approved and suitable for use indoors or out.




October 30, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

MyMapChat.com — 'Send your messages to the world'


This new website was just launched by bookofjoe fan Marcus Reimold of Cologne, Germany.

So you see, not all who wander through here are as lost as me.

You GO Marcus!

October 30, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Waterproof Wrist Camera


From the website:

    Waterproof Wrist Camera

    Strap this waterproof digital camera to your wrist and capture the action — while being part of it!

    Captures 56 minutes of video with sound at 512 x 384 resolution — plus stills.

    Built-in 16MB memory and accepts SD memory cards up to 2GB.

    Includes two AAA batteries and wrist mount.

    Shockproof and waterproof to 100 feet.

    Camera locks down flat (below).




October 30, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak — Chin-Up Airway Support Device: 'When two hands are not enough'


I came across this nifty new device (above and below)


in an ad (below)


in the October issue of Anesthesiology News.

Long story short: It lifts a sedated patient's chin and helps keep the airway open.

Quite often as patients are sedated they relax their upper airway muscles, resulting in respiratory obstruction which causes the anesthesiologist to have to manually elevate and reposition the mandible (lower jaw).

Sometimes it gets to be such a problem that both hands and a lot of force are required to maintain a functioning airway.

Well, you can see how that could cause a problem if you need to give some medication or do anything other than support the jaw.


This device purports to take over for the anesthesiologists' hands and maintain the airway.


Perhaps I'll give the Dupaco a call and ask for a couple to try out.

October 30, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Professional Quad Timer


From the website:

    Professional Quad Timer

    It can be a challenge to prepare a multi-course meal without something being overcooked or worse, not having everything cooked and ready to serve at the desired time.

    This multi-event timer can be used to time the cooking process or as a reminder when to start cooking various dishes with varying cook times.

    It has four independent timers that are set with a central rotary dial.

    All timers can be adjusted, paused or reset independently, and expired timers count up after sounding.

    The large dual LCD displays any two timers at once.

    Four green LEDs, representing each of the stovetop burners, illuminate when timers are running.

    The unit has a black rubber housing and a brushed metal faceplate, and operates with two included AAA batteries.


TechnoDolts™ will please move along, nothing to see here.

Everyone else — your time has come.


October 30, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Can a cockroach live without its head?


Charles Q. Choi answered the question in the November 2007 Scientific American "Fact or Fiction?" feature, which follows.

    Can A Cockroach Live Without Its Head?

    Cockroaches, infamous for their tenacity, are often cited as the most likely survivors of a nuclear war. Some pundits even claim the critters can live without their heads. It turns out that this assertion is fact: at times headless roaches can live for weeks.

    To understand why cockroaches — and many other insects — can survive decapitation, it helps to understand why humans cannot, says physiologist and biochemist Joseph G. Kunkel of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who studies cockroach development. First, decapitation in humans result in blood loss and a drop in blood pressure, hampering transport of oxygen and nutrition to vital tissues. “You’d bleed to death,” Kunkel states.

    In addition, humans breathe through their mouth or nose, and the brain controls that critical function, so breathing would stop. Moreover, the human body cannot eat without the head, ensuring certain death from starvation should one survive the other ill effects of head loss.

    Cockroaches do not have the same kind of circulatory system as people. For blood to make its way through the vast network of human blood vessels, and especially through the tiny capillaries, a fair amount of pressure must be maintained. The roach vascular system is much less extensive and lacks tiny capillaries, Kunkel notes, so pressure can be significantly lower. “After you cut their heads off, very often their necks will seal off just by clotting,” he adds. “There’s no uncontrolled bleeding.”

    Moreover, the hardy vermin breathe through spiracles, or little holes in each body segment. The roach brain does not control this breathing, and blood does not carry oxygen throughout the body. Rather the spiracles pipe air directly to tissues through a set of tubes called tracheae.

    Cockroaches are also poikilothermic, or coldblooded. Consequently, they do not expend energy to heat themselves up and so can get by on much less food than humans need. They can survive for weeks after just one meal, Kunkel says. “As long as some predator doesn’t eat them, they’ll just stay quiet and sit around.”

    Entomologist Christopher Tipping of Delaware Valley College has actually decapitated American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) — “very carefully under microscopes,” he observes — to study what happens, among other things. “We sealed the wound with dental wax to prevent them from drying out. A couple lasted for several weeks in a jar.”

    Roaches and many other insects have clumps of ganglia — nerve tissue agglomerations — distributed within each body segment, and the clumps are capable of performing the basic nervous functions responsible for reflexes, “so without the brain, the body can still function in terms of very simple reactions,” Tipping says. “They can stand, react to touch and move.”

    And it is not just the body that can survive decapitation; the lonely head can keep on functioning, too, waving its antennae back and forth for several hours until it runs out of steam, Kunkel says. If given nutrients and refrigerated, a roach head can last even longer.

    Still, in roaches “the body provides a huge amount of sensory information to the head, and the brain cannot function normally when denied these inputs,” explains neuroscientist Nicholas J. Strausfeld of the University of Arizona, who specializes in arthropod learning, memory and brain evolution. For instance, although cockroaches have a fantastic memory, he says, trying to teach them is futile when they have bits of their body missing. “We have to keep their bodies completely intact.”

    Cockroach decapitation may seem macabre, but scientists have conducted many experiments with headless roach bodies and bodiless roach heads to answer serious questions. Loss of the noggin deprives roach bodies of hormones from glands in their heads that control maturation, a finding that is helping researchers investigate metamorphosis and reproduction in insects. And studies of bodiless roach heads elucidate how insect neurons work. Ultimately, though, the results provide one more testament to the cockroach’s enviable endurance. A headless roach may not be the smartest of its kind, but it can certainly survive.

October 30, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

October 30, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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