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November 26, 2007

BehindTheMedspeak: NyQuil — What they don't teach you in medical school


Or maybe I was absent the day we covered this potion, the modern day version of snake oil, used to treat just about anything.

In Patrick Di Justo's "What's Inside" feature in the November, 2007 issue of Wired magazine, a deconstruction of this über-drug revealed much that surprised me.

Here's the juice.

    NyQuil, Fortified With Powerful Narcotics!


    One of the many wonder-pharmaceuticals that can be derived from coal tar, acetaminophen was used for nearly a century as a painkiller and fever reducer before anyone figured out how it worked. We now know that as the drug breaks down in the body, it turns into a cannabinoid: yes, stoners, the same type of compound that makes marijuana so irresistible. Doctors also once thought acetaminophen made users more talkative and outgoing. Current research suggests this idea was half-baked.

    Dextromethorphan HBr

    A cough suppressant. Well, actually, in the body it becomes dextrorphan, a cough suppressant, and levorphanol, a painkiller five times as powerful as morphine. Like PCP and ketamine, DXM is also an NMDA receptor antagonist, so the National Institute on Drug Abuse lists it as a "dissociative" drug. Twelve times the recommended dose of NyQuil leads to distorted perceptions of sight and sound and produces feelings of detachment — dissociation — from the environment and oneself. For people whose bodies are unusually slow at metabolizing the drug, even low doses of DXM trigger full-blown "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" psychedelic trips.

    Doxylamine succinate

    Officially, this ingredient is on the label as an antihistamine. But it is equally useful as a sleep aid, providing a nice, convenient one-two... Zzzz.

    Citric acid

    Citric acid has proven somewhat effective as a flu killer, but only if you spray it into your nose. Because NyQuil is meant to be swallowed, not snorted, its presence here is probably to add a little tang, and possibly to act as a low-level preservative.


    Hooch has been used as a folk remedy for the common cold for centuries (despite the fact that it doesn't work). But according to Procter & Gamble, alcohol's sole purpose in NyQuil is to serve as a solvent, keeping the top three ingredients in solution.

    Polyethylene glycol and propylene glycol

    Chemical cousins used as thickeners. NyQuil's consistency is somewhere between water and honey, but not because it needs to be. Drug marketers know many people prefer medicines in syrup form.

    Sodium citrate

    In other contexts sodium citrate is an anticoagulant; most likely it is used here as a buffer to maintain the acid-base balance of all the other ingredients.


    P&G isn't talking, but we suspect the cloyingly repulsive taste of NyQuil is to ensure that you can swallow a tablespoon or two but can't drink enough of the stuff to start seeing Jesus.

    High fructose corn syrup

    A dash of sugar helps that tablespoon or two go down.


I wouldn't be at all surprised if in a couple years this drug is placed behind the counter, available only by adult request.

And that's even without the current kerfuffle about the apparent uselessness and potential hazards of such medications in children.

November 26, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Tool Band-It — Wear your tools on your sleeve


It started with the wearable magnetic pincushion featured here on July 10, 2005, then morphed into the magnetic wristband of October 13, 2005, capable of handling screws, nails, nuts and bolts.

A couple years out back in the skunk works and it grew like Topsy.

From the website:

    Tool Band-It

    The Tool Band-It easily wraps around your arm, with strong adjustable Velcro bands and powerful rare earth magnets.

    Even heavy metal tools stick securely to the band so you don't have to twist or reach for screwdrivers or wrenches — or use the magnets to hold your tools against a metal ladder or the side of a tool cabinet.



So you.

They're already out back in the skunk works working on Version 2.0, which I'm told will also take your blood pressure.

$29.95 (tools not included).

November 26, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Helene Ver Standig — 'The world's largest diamond swindler'


And yet she never broke the law.

Joe Holley's September 25, 2006 Washington Post obituary (which follows) of this remarkable woman demonstrated how a knack for turning things inside out and upside down can be a ticket to success.

    Helen Ver Standig; Ace Marketer, Dealer of Faux Diamonds

    Helen Ver Standig, 86, who died of respiratory failure Sept. 9 at Sibley Memorial Hospital, was a 4-foot-11-inch marketing dynamo who knew more about fakes, pretenders and counterfeiters than any valet, psychiatrist or bartender in all of Washington.

    As "Madame Wellington," the wisecracking, savvy businesswoman sold diamonds that weren't really diamonds. They may have looked genuine — enough so that in 1969 midnight burglars smashed the window of her Connecticut Avenue store and scooped up a handful of "Wellingtons" — but they actually were simulated stones made of cut and polished lead.

    Mrs. Ver Standig and her business partner-husband, M. Belmont Ver Standig ("Mac" to friends) were never ones to tell that a certain first lady wore fake diamond earrings. That a member of a European royal family wore a Wellington tiara (worth $25,000). That a Supreme Court justice purchased numerous fine diamonds for his wife that were de facto Wellingtons. Or that one of their patrons allegedly boasted that he spent four days with a $1,000-a-night hooker and rewarded her with a Wellington diamond. (A real diamond at the time cost $5,000 a carat; a Wellington, $40 a carat.)

    The Ver Standigs loved it when their store was robbed. They ran ads in Washington newspapers warning, "BEWARE OF DIAMOND SWINDLERS." The Wellington diamonds were virtually indistinguishable from real diamonds, the ads burbled. "So you better be on guard. Some thief is going to try to sell you one of them, and it's going to be pretty easy for him to fool you."

    People lined up on Connecticut to see if the Wellingtons looked that real, prompting the Ver Standigs to trademark the name "Counterfeit Diamonds" — and to craft another ad. In bold type over a photograph of a Wellington ring, the caption read, "Only one thing keeps us from passing this off as a diamond." In small type underneath the photo were the words "(The Police Department)."

    Mrs. Ver Standig became "Madame Wellington" when her husband grew concerned that competitors were stealing their advertising concepts. He sent his wife to pose for New York Times cartoonist Al Hirschfeld, who came up with "a buxom tiara'd doyenne of diamonds, dripping with jewels and winking naughtily."

    That's how The Washington Post described the caricature; according to her son, the outre real-life version bore a great deal of similarity. Appearing as "the Madame" at the opening of all the Wellington stores — 42 in all, in the United States, Europe and Canada — she liked to say, "Honey, I've been responsible for more cheap weekends than any madame in the country."

    Mrs. Ver Standig was born Helen Van Stondeg in the District on July 11, 1920. Her father, the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland, was a tailor who moved from New York and opened a dress shop on lower Connecticut Avenue called Adolf's. When she graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1936, she went back to the shop, where she'd been working since she was 12. With the Depression still on, "I learned what bartering was — trading, teeth being cleaned for a hat, dresses for shoes and furniture for clothing," she wrote in a family memoir.

    One day in 1938, Mac Ver Standig of Boston strolled into the shop. The tall, suave young man managed newspapers for a bank that had taken them over through foreclosure. In town on business, he enjoyed tracking down distant relatives and thought Van Stondeg might be a variant of his own name.

    He met 18-year-old Helen and asked the tiny, voluptuous young woman to show him around Washington. ("You bet your bippy, and off we went," she wrote.) Three months later, the two eloped to Maryland. "We couldn't wait to jump in the sack," she told The Post years later.

    The couple went to work selling advertising for a weekly newspaper in Massachusetts and then bought weekly papers of their own, first in Cranston, R.I., then in Greer, S.C. After selling the South Carolina paper, they moved to Washington, sold advertising briefly for radio station WWDC and then opened the M. Belmont Ver Standig Advertising Agency.

    With Mac as the creative genius and Helen as the business genius, the agency was an immediate success. Its first client was Hot Shoppes; to tout the restaurant chain's fried chicken, the Ver Standigs invented a chicken-loving character called Pappy Parker. They crafted an ad campaign for the first Marriott hotel, created a "discount drug" ad campaign for Dart Drugs, developed Geico's "safe drivers" pitch and persuaded developer Marshall Coyne to make the Madison Hotel a luxury abode.

    For another of their clients, Wilkins Coffee, they featured Wilkins and Wontkins, a couple of puppets created by a young University of Maryland student named Jim Henson. Wilkins and Wontkins were the original "Muppets."

    Publicity was the Ver Standigs' game, whatever the situation. In the early 1950s, Mrs. Ver Standig, an ardent animal lover, acquired two ring-tailed monkeys, Moses and Joshua, who enjoyed climbing telephone poles in the neighborhood, unscrewing the ceramic insulators and flinging them at unsuspecting passersby on the sidewalk below. The phone company persuaded the city to sue, and for days local papers covered the "D.C. Monkey Trial." Mrs. Ver Standig eventually prevailed and was allowed to keep her mischievous primates.

    Her son recalled Moses's demise. The little monkey and his pal were accustomed to sitting down at the family dining table every evening, until an evening when Moses helped himself to cantaloupe rinds and a martini. The resulting gastritis prompted a panicked Mrs. Ver Standig to call the family doctor, who thought he heard her say that husband Moishe (Mac), not monkey Moses, was dying. He rushed over, an emergency medical team right behind.

    "What do you want me to do?" the EMS attendant asked, staring down at the prostrate monkey.

    "Mouth to mouth!" Mrs. Ver Standig shouted. Alas, Moses could not be revived. Joshua repaired to the National Zoo.

    The Ver Standigs sold their ad agency in 1964 and began marketing the simulated diamonds via mail order before opening the shops. Given the high price of real diamonds and skyrocketing insurance rates, business boomed, and Mrs. Ver Standig took to calling herself the world's largest diamond swindler.

    After her husband died in 1972, she continued running Wellington Jewels, along with a resort hotel on Cape Cod called Smugglers Beach. She also started a real estate investment company and invested in radio stations.

    In 1992, she sold Wellington Jewels to the QVC home-shopping channel and took up the cause of AIDS, after a close friend died of the disease. She also served on the board of Whitman-Walker Clinic and supported Washington's first charter schools.

    In 2005, the D.C. Council declared July 11 "Helen Ver Standig Day."

    Survivors include two children, John Ver Standig and Joan Lipnick, both of Bethesda; five grandchildren; and her companion, George Basiliko of Washington.

November 26, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

World's Most Technical Slippers — 'Remote-Controlled Reflexology'


Far out.

From the website:

    Nixper Reflexology Slipper

    Enjoy foot-soothing reflexology when you use these Nixper Reflexology Slippers as you walk, work or relax.

    FDA-approved and remote-controlled, these rechargeable reflexology slippers rejuvenate tired feet using four wave modes and 12 intensity levels.

    You can bring in the newspaper or make dinner during treatment.

    • Safe, low-frequency electrowaves stimulate nerves and muscles throughout the reflex zone, benefitting the entire body

    • Slippers help improve circulation, reduce swelling, muscle contractions, and numbness in the legs

    • Reflexology also soothes aches and pains associated with arthritis

    • Arch supports add an extra measure of comfort

    • Includes recharger and 30-minute cycle timer


November 26, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'To live is to crochet' – Fernando Pessoa

I envy — but I'm not sure that I envy — those for whom a biography could be written, or who could write their own. In these random impressions, and with no desire to be other than random, I indifferently narrate my factless autobiography, my lifeless history. These are my Confessions, and if in them I say nothing, it's because I have nothing to say.

What is there to confess that's worthwhile or useful? What has happened to us has happened to everyone or only to us; if to everyone, then it's no novelty, and if only to us, then it won't be understood. If I write what I feel, it's to reduce the fever of feeling. What I confess is unimportant, because everything is unimportant. I make landscapes out of what I feel. I make holidays of my sensations. I can easily understand women who embroider out of sorrow or who crochet because life exists. My elderly aunt would play solitaire throughout the endless evening. These confessions of what I feel are my solitaire. I don't interpret them like those who read cards to tell the future. I don't probe them, because in solitaire the cards don't have any special significance. I unwind myself like a multicolored skein, or I make string figures of myself, like those woven on spread fingers and passed from child to child. I take care only that my thumb not miss its loop. Then I turn over my hand and the figure changes. And I start over.

To live is to crochet according to a pattern we are given. But while doing it the mind is at liberty, and all enchanted princes can stroll in their parks between one and another plunge of the hooked ivory needle. Needlework of things... Intervals... Nothing....

Besides, what can I expect from myself? My sensations in all their horrible acuity, and a profound awareness of feeling... A sharp mind that only destroys me, and an unusual capacity for dreaming to keep me entertained... A dead will and a reflection that cradles it, like a living child... Yes, crochet....

November 26, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Stickman in Officeland Reflective Stickers


From the website:

    Stickman in Officeland Reflective Stickers

    Everyone knows Stickman.

    He's the generic male silhouette who's constantly caught up in dangerous situations.

    This time Stickman warns of the potential hazards of working in an office.

    Each set of puffy vinyl reflective stickers captures Stickman in all sorts of awkward and painful situations, as he dutifully endures pitfalls and hazards in the name of workplace safety.

    One 8" x 10" sheet of twelve stickers.


November 26, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

DesignMyRoom.com — Digital Dollhouse


David Baker wrote about this website in this past weekend's Financial Times (FT), as follows.

    Play Rooms

    For a playful and inspiring way into interior design, take a look at DesignMyRoom.com. Choose your room shape and furnish it from a palette of wall coverings, carpets, lamps, furniture, appliances and objects. Everything appears in 3D and full colour, so there is no trying to work out how your two-dimensional plan will look in reality. You can endlessly rearrange items and create joint projects with other people across the internet. This being a U.S.-based site, all items are for sale and at the end you get a handy shopping list with prices and suppliers' contacts. You can see other people's creations but may opt to keep your projects private so the world doesn't discover your uncontrollable love of hessian wallpaper.


"This being a U.S.-based site, all items are for sale...."

What does that mean?

That if the site were, say, U.K.- or France-based, things wouldn't be for sale?

Is that better, to have the capability of creating just the look you want, then be consigned to saving it as an online daydream?

I think not.

To me, things should always be easy and connected, so the website's example should serve as a model for others which show but don't, in the end, tell.

November 26, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blade Runner Light Saber Umbrella


gadgetmadness.com featured it on August 25, 2004, but it's just now registering on my screen.

Seeing as "Blade Runner" came out in 1982, set in 2018, I guess 2004 and 2007 are pretty much the same thing, neither there nor then.


From the website selling the device:

LED Umbrella

Early in the 21st Century, the Tyrell Corporation advanced robot evolution into the Nexus phase — a being virtually identical to a human — known as a Replicant. They're all around you, even now. That guy next to you? He's a Replicant. How do we know? He's walking the streets in the rain with no umbrella. That, and he failed the Voight-Kampff.


In the pre-apocalyptic future, the air will be so thick, it will be dark in the middle of the day. Coupled with the almost constant rain, you'll need to find a way to stay dry, and light your way to the noodle shop down the street.

Even if you don't live in a quasi-futuristic Los Angeles, and aren't a Blade Runner, you can still have the coolest umbrella on the street. With a push of a button, the shaft lights up, illuminating you and your path. Now, even in the darkest of nights, you're a lot more visible to the cars on the street, making your long walk home through the rain a lot safer.

Uses 3 AAA batteries (included).


Black with white LEDs or Red with red LEDs.



Turns out a pretty much unrelated (directly) back story is quite interesting.

In 2001 one Gary Willoughby decided he wanted one of these, and they apparently weren't yet generally available.

He contacted Gene Winfield who, in the course of relocating, found a small cache of neon-lighted umbrellas — props from the filming of "Blade Runner" — in a small shed wrapped in a canvas tarp.

Willoughby had them restored to working order and marketed all but one, which he kept for himself.

He wrote, "The umbrella is totally portable like the original, using two large 6 volt batteries [below]."


"Here I am with the umbrella [below]."


"This is the first time since 1982, almost 20 years, that any neon umbrella has been used!"

November 26, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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