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February 12, 2008

Lost — and found — in virtual space


The account that follows appeared as if by magic — then vanished.

My crack research team was quick enough to capture it.

Lost — and found — in virtual space

Technology should be like magic — it works and you don't know how, but you can do it without thinking about it.

For instance, I was out of town this weekend for some little music party... nothing big... I think someone was videotaping for youtube or something... I don't pay attention to these things... my lawyer was there and I needed to talk with him about changes in management blah blah blah... and I thought it might be a good way to get trashed on someone else's dime.

Anyhoo... he suggests a stop somewhere... talk with another client. Next thing I know I'm in the middle of an accidental drug buy gone bad. Somehow I'm holding a brick of coke, running at full speed in a town I don't know, and not wanting to drop it because I'm realizing

A) it is fully cellophaned and this will be a perfect recording of my finger prints.

B) some kid is going to find it and overdose on it

C) did I mention I'm gonna get raped in jail while serving my life sentence for trafficking because I'm more than Man-Pretty... I'm Man-Beautiful. Seriously. Ok, age has pulled off the sheen and density of my man-mane, but it works out in a rugged sorta way....

Where does the technology come into play... I'm running down the streets with a bag in my hands containing a brick of coke and a gun in a still sealed evidence ziplock. I have my iPhone out... fully charged just in case of events like this. I pull up googlemaps... satellite view... what buildings can I duck through... what it going to be a dead end. Click the FIND ME button... centers perfectly. It isn't real, it is magic. My earphones are firmly placed in my head, two clicks and my map changes into a communication device... Mr. Esquire Sleazypants Where Are You!!! No I Don't Know What Street I'm On... Edge Cuts Off When I Switch To Phone... what? Would I like to join wireless network LINKSYS (UNLOCKED) — YES DAMMIT YES... OK — maps are back up again... I'm on the corner of Hard Place and Rock... hiding under a stairway. Send me your location. Mr. Sleazypants has a hacked iPhone... it has a little more magic than mine... but if there was anything that Star Wars has ever taught us, it is that the dark side always has cooler toys. I get a notification that I am now subscribed to Sleazy's current location... the mail program is pretty cool... I can click a link and it will send me right into the map... I click ROUTE TO CURRENT LOCATION... DAMMIT! He is going the opposite direction.

Sixteen blocks to the south. There are a few one-ways... cool... traffic view is working... it appears a few blocks north is a major artery... lots of movement... and would be a great meeting place. SEARCH RESTARAUNT... google asks DID YOU MEAN RESTAURANT, BECAUSE THIS IS A COMMON WORD AND YOU REALLY SHOULD LEARN TO SPELL IT RIGHT? *YES DAMMIT YES*... Look for Country Ruth's Soul Kitch'n.
I shout the directions to him... from the emails, it appears he is still going the wrong direction, but is slowly righting himself.
No can do... give me twenty minutes and I'll let you know, sleazo says. I spend the next twenty planning my route. Police sirens going on around me, still looking for whatever gang was shooting earlier in the evening, and I catch up with a few emails. Actually write a few tech-support postings to my forums... I'm helping with a new synthesizer that is being released next month and getting some information out... it is like magic. I can be on the run from the po'po and the crips and still be connected to my virtual world.

Tell you what: after reading the above, I think maybe it's best I defer upgrading from my eons-old Nokia 6230 for a decade or two.

February 12, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

United 747 landing in Hong Kong — Captain to ground control

Cockpit audio and passenger video — how's that for a mashup?

Way cool.

February 12, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Can noise-canceling headphones make you sick?


What the hey? is what I thought when I came across a Q. & A. about this in Melinda Beck's "Health Mailbox" feature in today's Wall Street Journal.

Long answer short: Yes.

After I read Ms. Beck's piece I realized I knew as much — or more — about the subject as anyone else.

Pretty good knowledge upgrade in return for two minutes of my time.

Here's the Q. & A.

    Q: I was recently given a pair of the Bose QC3 headphones [smaller earphones at top] with active noise canceling, and have felt queasy every time I put them on. I had to take them off and lie down at one point, and ended up throwing up later that night and was unable to eat more than apple sauce the next day. As crazy as it sounds, did the headphones cause my discomfort?

    A: It's possible. Bose's "Acoustic Noise Cancelling" headphones work by electronically determining the difference between wanted and unwanted sounds, and creating a correction signal that acts to negate the unwanted noise, according to its Web site. (The company didn't respond to requests to comment.) Sarah Stackpole, a New York ear, nose and throat doctor, speculates that the sound waves that cancel each other out may still transmit enough very low frequency vibrations to stimulate the balance receptors that are connected to the hearing hair cells in the inner ear. These vibrations are akin to those caused by blast explosions or barotrauma in scuba diving, but much less forceful, she says. The disequilibrium that some people may feel from this is made worse because the vibrations falsely signal that the head is moving, but the eyes report that the head is stationary. Those mixed signals make the headphone wearer feel dizzy.

    Some people are more sensitive to this sensation than others. Many users love their headsets. If the vertigo doesn't improve, you may need to decrease the input by using earphones without a tight seal.



The exchange above appears on page three of today's WSJ Personal Journal section.

Turn the page and you're greeted by page five's full page ad for that very model of Bose noise-canceling headphones.

No question but what the editorial and advertising departments of the paper are walled-off, after seeing that.

Probably not for much longer, though, once the gobsmacked Bose grand panjandrums recover their balance (take off the headphones, boys!) and get on the horn to Rupert.

One more thing: the Bose model referred to above (QC3) is the on-ear version.

The original around-the-ear version, the QC2 (larger earphones at top), would seem to offer an even more disorienting experience, since it seals off the outside world to a greater degree than the QC3.

February 12, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

4-in-1 Hot Dog Maker — 'One-Handed Picnic'


That's what Adam P. Knave put in the subject box of his email just in, containing a link to this singular product.

"It's a hot dog maker, steamer, egg boiler and popcorn maker in one! No fat or oil is required, so it's a healthier way to cook. Also includes warming spikes for hot dog buns. Plugs into standard outlet."

They had me at the warming spikes for hot dog buns.

Originally $39.95 but for some strange reason now reduced to $29.48.

Laugh all you like but once these go up here, they'll be gone in a Reykjavik minute.

February 12, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rappers of Tehran — Hichkas breaks it down, Farsi-style

No regime can withstand this force.

Here's Najmeh Bozorgmehr's story from today's Financial Times about the rise of the Iranian street — rap iteration.

    Iranian rappers serenade the sound of sirens

    Soroush Lashkari is regarded by his fellow musicians as the godfather of Iranian rap, but he must meet his fans wherever he can: one day in a park, another day in a street and the next in a studio, if he is lucky enough to find one.

    He began listening to rap music on satellite television about five years ago and with the help of some friends, he started recording his own songs. He distributed them in Tehran by asking passers-by: “Have you listened to Farsi rap?”

    Initially he sold about 20 CDs a day but now also distributes his music through websites and Bluetooth phones.

    He thinks Iranian rap has a promising future and hopes one day to have a concert abroad, preferably in the US. Hichkas has yet to persuade any official studios to let him, but says he is amazed at how quickly his popularity has spread. His band, Saamet, meaning “silent”, provides lyrics and music for dozens of rappers in Iran.

    But the 22-year-old singer has been forced to keep a low profile after the Islamic government launched an official campaign against rap music at the end of last year.

    Some members of his band spent a few days in jail last May and have received official warnings to stop their “decadent” music.

    President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad’s government says it supports “learned music”, which includes Iranian and western classical music, but pop and rock are not encouraged. Rap in particular has offended official sensibilities because its lyrics — judged by some as disrespectful — are said to offend against the conservative structure of society.

    Hichkas does not use swear words but his lyrics do focus on social injustice, the widening gap between rich and poor, street fighting and even on the international pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme. In one song called “The Law”, to the accompaniment of police sirens, he says: “It’s tough on the street... The weak die, the strong remain aloof... Open your eyes and let me explain the law... We live in a police state where the constitution is trampled upon. Let me shout that I’m a victim of this jungle!... Don’t handcuff me!”

    Although he comes from a middle-class background, Hichkas has spent much of his youth with some of the violent street gangs that hang out in parks in the poorer districts in central and southern Tehran.

    Unlike many of his fellow rappers, he says he has never used drugs and hopes to help warn young people against the dangers of life on the street.

    While he will not talk about any personal involvement in street violence, one of Hichkas’s closest friends, a fellow rapper, openly admits he used drugs and committed robberies when he was part of a gang. Reza Pishro, who dresses like a US rapper in loose jeans and long T-shirt, became homeless after his parents’ divorce when he was 11 and lived on the street for about eight years.

    He now says he has given up all drugs and is back with his family, looking after his mother and even settling down to marry.

    “I used to get depressed and escape my problems by fighting, but now I do it by rapping,” says Reza.

    “Everyone ends up on the street for a different reason, like not having fun or being jobless or homeless,” says Hichkas. He says he does not spend as much time there as he used to, particularly since he witnessed the death of two friends in a fight.

    “Sometimes, we go out at night to beat up drug dealers and throw their drugs and money into the ditch,” he says. “Our goal now is to stop those who destroy other human beings.”

February 12, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Formal rubber gloves — For when you've used your best china


Sure, they call them "mucking gloves" but we know better.

Think outside the garden space.

From the website:

    Elbow-Length Mucking Gloves

    There are some jobs that absolutely must be done by hand, but sometimes you wish you could use someone else's hands.

    These are the gloves you need for such jobs.

    Perfect for working near poison ivy, cleaning garden ponds or dealing with unpleasant materials of all kinds.

    Made of thick latex rubber, these 23"-long gloves cover you well past your elbows.

    Just hose them down after use.


February 12, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: The agony of chronic pain — and the rise of implantable stimulators


Ever work in a pain clinic?

I have.

Let me tell you something you may not know: the average patient waiting to be seen is one of the most miserable group of people in any specialty physician's office anywhere.

Chronic pain slowly gnaws at an individual's psyche, starting with the pain itself, followed predictably by chronic fatigue due to insomnia, altered mental status due to the medications used in an attempt to keep the pain in check, repeated therapeutic interventions such as injections, surgery and the like, huge expenses and time lost from work, and finally inability to focus and concentrate due to all of the above.

Oh, I almost forgot: relationships, family and friends all suffer, often irreparably, as the months and years without relief pass.

Tara Parker-Pope's January 8, 2008 New York Times Science section "Well" column explored the use of implantable stimulators that substitute a low-grade buzzing situation for the pain.

Long story short: patients say it's an excellent trade-off.

Here's the Times piece.

    Pain Relief for Some, With an Odd Tradeoff

    For people with chronic pain, relief comes with a tradeoff. Bed rest means missing out on life. Drugs take the edge off, but they also dull the senses and the mind.

    But there’s another potential option: implantable stimulators that blunt pain with electrical impulses. In this case, the tradeoff is living with a low-grade buzzing sensation in place of the pain.

    The devices, which are implanted near the spine, are not widely used. They are expensive, don’t work for everyone and rarely offer complete relief. Industry officials estimate that fewer than 10 percent of eligible patients opt for the treatment.

    But when they do work, they can be life-changing. Carolyn Stewart, 45, of Clifton, N.J., has lived with chronic back pain since she was 18, when she had surgery after a car accident. Then four years ago, a procedure for a collapsed lung accidentally resulted in nerve damage that caused excruciating pain. “I just want to sleep normally and not have pain that wakes me up every 20 minutes,” she said.

    Ms. Stewart has been using pain drugs to cope, but side effects, including fatigue and constipation, only add to her discomfort. A few years ago she did a “test drive” of a spinal cord stimulator and experienced a significant drop in her pain. Insurance troubles delayed a permanent implant, but this month she is finally undergoing surgery to attach the device to her spinal cord. “It’s not going to be 100 percent,” she said. “But I will be happy with a 50 percent change.”

    Not every patient feels that way. Ms. Stewart’s physician, Dr. Andrew G. Kaufman, director of interventional pain management at Overlook Hospital in Summit, N.J., described a patient who tested a stimulator and experienced “unbelievable” pain relief, yet simply couldn’t adjust to the sensation created by the device and decided not to keep it. “She couldn’t get over the background buzzing,” Dr. Kaufman said.

    Still, most patients accept this vibrating version of white noise, says Dr. Richard North, a retired neurosurgery professor at Johns Hopkins who developed several patents related to the technology, although he no longer receives royalties.

    “When they first feel the sensation they say, ‘That’s weird,’” said Dr. North, who treats patients at the LifeBridge Health Brain and Spine Institute in Baltimore. “It quickly becomes clear that ‘weird’ is going to be just fine if it replaces the pain.”

    Chronic pain is a particularly difficult problem to understand and solve. Pain is normal after an injury or because of a health problem. But sometimes the nerves misfire and continue sending intense pain signals to the brain even after the injury heals. Dr. Vijay B. Vad, a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, compares the problem to a thermostat in a cool room. “If it’s 65 degrees in the house, but the thermostat thinks it’s 50 degrees, the heat keeps running,” Dr. Vad said.

    The condition, complex regional pain syndrome, or C.R.P.S., typically develops after a medical procedure or an accident. But even minor injuries, like a sprain from a fall, can cause it. The syndrome may follow 5 percent of all injuries, according to the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Association, an advocacy group for people with chronic pain.

    Spinal cord stimulation works by implanting an electrode near the spinal cord, inserted through the same place where epidural pain relief is injected for women in labor. Electrical pulses scramble or block the pain signals traveling through the nervous system, preventing them from reaching the brain.

    But spinal cord stimulators offer significant relief to only about half the patients who try them. In September, the journal Pain published the largest-ever clinical trial of spinal cord stimulators, comparing their use with conventional pain therapies, including drugs, nerve blocks and physical therapy. The study, which was financed by the implant maker Medtronic, followed 100 patients who had undergone spinal surgery and had developed chronic pain in one or both legs.

    Every patient received conventional pain treatment, but half were also given a spinal cord implant. Pain fell by half for 48 percent of the implant patients but only 9 percent of the others.

    The implants cost about $20,000, and the procedure, hospital care and follow-up can bring the total bill to about $40,000. In August, the medical journal Neurosurgery showed that spinal cord implants were far cheaper than additional operations to treat pain.

    Another concern is that patients who require high doses of stimulation drain the battery quickly, requiring surgery to replace the device. New rechargeable versions of the stimulators have helped resolve that concern.

    For some patients, relief is only temporary, and the pain returns. Doctors say simple adjustments to the device may solve that problem.

    “Sometimes efficacy wanes over time, but I still believe in them,” said Dr. Kaufman, also an assistant professor of anesthesiology at the New Jersey Medical School. “When drugs don’t work, what else is there?”

February 12, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Pizza Scissors — No programmer or software engineer should be without 'em


From the website:

    Pizza Scissors

    Slice-and-serve pizza scissors put a stop to tumbling toppings and sliding cheese.

    The scissors’ razor-sharp blades easily cut through pizza, foccaccia, bread, quiche and more, creating appetizing ready-to-serve pieces.

    Flip the scissors on their side and promptly serve with the built-in spatula.

    Stainless steel scissor blades separate for easy cleanup.

    Comfort-grip handles.


    3½"W x 11¾"L.



$9.95 (pizza not included).

February 12, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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