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October 24, 2008

BehindTheMedspeak: 'Successful' surgery and its discontents


Some years ago I remarked on the use of the term "successful surgery" as a blanket description of any operation performed on someone famous.

So I'm bemused to find I'm not the only skeptic.

Read Paul Needell's column in yesterday's New Jersey Star-Ledger; it follows.

    So much for New England Patriots QB Tom Brady's 'successful' knee surgery

    It's one of our favorite expressions. Athlete undergoes surgery, and his team immediately announces it was "successful." As if anyone really knows until the rehab is complete and the athlete is back on the field, good as new.

    The New England Patriots have been burned big-time in regards to the season-ending left-knee surgery superstar QB Tom Brady underwent last month. Brady opted to have his major reconstruction done by a West Coast doctor preferred by his family instead of the team's medical staff, which is his right.

    Sadly, the surgery — in which a patellar tendon was used to replace his shredded anterior cruciate ligament — was far from a success. The Boston Herald first reported and ESPN.com has confirmed that three follow-up surgical procedures to rid the knee of infection have been performed.

    It's possible the ACL replacement/reconstruction may even have to be repeated, if the infection has ruined the original surgery. In that case, Brady's rehab could be set back by "months," according to an ESPN.com source, impacting mightily on his goal to be ready in plenty of time for training camp next summer.

    That may be extreme, though. Players who undergo knee reconstructions as late as December or January have recovered in time for the following training camp in recent years. Nonetheless, the Pats are understandably distressed that Brady went his own way in choosing a surgeon and now that doctor is working more closely with the team's medical staff.

    Coach Bill Belichick doesn't meet with the media on Thursdays, so this statement from him on Brady released last Saturday has to do for now:

    "Since Tom Brady suffered an unfortunate knee injury in our season opener on September 7, we have been in constant consultation with him and he has our complete support."

October 24, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Clip-On Table — Episode 2: Light-Enhanced


Last week's iteration featured the table but lo and behold here's a tricked-out version — for $2 less.

Must be one of those Bizarro World boundary issues made real.

From websites:

    Clip-On Tray with Light

    No room for an end table?

    Clip this to your sofa or chair.

    Instant table, instant light — no floor space or outlet required, just the arm of your sofa or easy chair.

    This clip-on tray makes it easier to relax and enjoy a snack while you’re reading or watching TV.

    You’ll instantly have room for your coffee and remote control or book.

    Five bright LEDs provide all the light you need for reading and flexible neck makes it easy to position the light where you need it.

    Handles fold flat to turn it into a tray.

    Uses 3 AA batteries (not included).

    12"L x 9.25"W.


October 24, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nick Mamatas is 'The Term Paper Artist'


Highlights from his eye-opening first person account follow.

One great way to briefly turn the conversation toward myself at a party is to answer the question, "So, what do you do?" with, "I'm a writer." Not that most of the people I've met at parties have read my novels or short stories or feature articles; when they ask, "Have I seen any of your stuff?" I shrug and the conversation moves on. If I want attention for an hour or so, however, I'll tell them my horrible secret — for several years I made much of my freelance income writing term papers.

I always wanted to be writer, but was told from an early age that such a dream was futile. Then, in the Village Voice, I saw just such an ad. Writers wanted, to write short pieces on business, economics, and literature. It was from a term paper mill, and they ran the ad at the beginning of each semester.

Writing model term papers is above-board and perfectly legal. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the plurality of clients was business administration majors, but both elementary education majors and would-be social workers showed up aplenty.

The term paper biz is managed by brokers who take financial risks by accepting credit card payments and psychological risks by actually talking to the clients. Most of the customers just aren't very bright. One of my brokers would even mark assignments with the code words DUMB CLIENT. That meant to use simple English; nothing's worse than a client calling back to ask a broker — most of whom had no particular academic training — what certain words in the paper meant. One time a client actually asked to talk to me personally and lamented that he just didn't "know a lot about Plah-toe." Distance learning meant that he'd never heard anyone say the name.

Others are stuck on their personal statements for college applications, and turn to their parents, who then turn to a term paper mill. One mother unashamedly summarized her boy and his goals like so: "[My son] is a very kind hearted young man. One who will make a difference in whatever he does. Barely can go unnoticed because of his vivacious character, happiness, and joy in life. He is very much in tune with his fortune and often helps the less fortunate." The kid planned to be a pre-med major if accepted, but was applying to a competitive college as a Women's Studies major because Mother was "told the chances of him getting into [prominent college] under less desirable subjects (as opposed to Business) was better." Finally, she explained to me the family philosophy — "Since our family places great emphasis on education, [boy] fully accepts that the only guarantee for a good and stable future can be only achieved through outstanding education."

I had a girlfriend who had been an attorney and a journalist, and she wanted to try a paper. I gave her a five-page job on leash laws in dog parks, and she came home that evening with over 50 pages of print outs, all articles and citations. She sat down to write. Three hours later she was rolling on the floor and crying. She tried to write a paper, instead of filling five pages. Another friend of mine spent hours trying to put together an eight-page paper on magical realism in Latin American fiction. At midnight she declared that it was impossible to write that many pages on books she had never read. She was still weeping, chain-smoking cigarettes, and shouting at me at 2 a.m. I took 20 minutes and finished the paper, mostly by extending sentences until all the paragraphs ended with an orphaned word on a line of its own.

At the parties I go to, people start off laughing, but then they stop.

[via moi-même]

October 24, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

CAE 7000 Series Flight Simulator


Jonathan Margolis, the "Technopolis" columnist for the Financial Times "How To Spend It" magazine, raved about his experience in one in his October 10, 2008 column, excerpts from which follow.

    CAE 7000 Series Flight Simulator

    It seems almost unbelievable, but British Airways has started allowing us non-Nigels (Nigel is airline slang for a BA pilot) to get our hands on its state-of-the-art £9m full-motion simulators [top] and make like airline captains. You can book anything from a one-hour to a three-hour flight at the controls of various Boeings. For this, you get a pre-flight briefing, flight instruction and a BA pilot to yourself for the duration of your "flight."

    I went along to BA's unrivalled simulator farm at Heathrow the other evening with my movie magnate son and we had the best time together since we went tank driving when he was at school. The simulators, made by the world leader in the field, CAE of Montreal, look from the outside like props from a "War of the Worlds"-type movie — huge robots on six scary legs shifting about comically like dads at a disco.

    Inside the machine the sensation is indistinguishable from real flying. The visual display alone will make your jaw drop .... But you really don't need to be able to fly to enjoy a session: in some ways it's quite easy. You have a yoke in your hand that controls the aircraft in all directions. As our pilot put it (and I'm sure this is what they tell you at Nigel school), "Pull back, houses get smaller, push forward, houses get bigger."

    Even an oaf like me was able to land after a few attempts without causing more than a million pounds' worth of damage to the undercarriage (I did hear what every pilot dreads, a robotic voice shouting, "Terrain, terrain," which is short for "You're flying into a mountain" but I did it deliberately).

    Even though you are piloting 200 tons of metal, the "control inputs" required are almost dainty. Unless you're part of the computer-games generation (my son thrashed me to the extent that he was asked to consider training) you tend to overdo each movement and then have to undo it, setting up a cycle that would more than spill the passengers' coffee.

    So, what if you fancy a simulator of your own? These aren't cheap computer games, but I can think of few better ways of escaping thoughts of everyday life and business than popping into the simulator to fly across the Atlantic. CAE can and will supply, fit and maintain a unit for a private individual....


About £9,000,000 ($15,300,000; €11,350,000).

October 24, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Are 'front page news' and 'above the fold' irrelevant online?

Or does it no longer matter when or where something appears within the confines of a given website?

I got to thinking about this last evening when I was considering what time and day to post a particularly interesting item.

I used to think 9:01 a.m. Monday morning was the prime time and day of the week for something I thought merited the widest possible exposure, but then I got to thinking about my "greatest hits" over the years — Telephonic Sheep, Skid Mark Brief Safe, Shoelaces, Bubble House, Indian Larry, et al — and looking back saw they appeared all over the map, at a variety of times on varying days.

I conclude that people will find something if it has value or interest, so it doesn't much matter when it appears.

Nevertheless I posted the item alluded to above to appear at 9:01 a.m. next Monday.

Old habits die hard.

October 24, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Expanding Mini Speaker


From the website:

Expanding Mini Speaker

Portable mini speaker delivers big sound, yet is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand


Instantly transform your iPod®, MP3 player, gaming system or laptop computer into a thundering boom box — all from a unit that weighs less than 2 ounces.

Just plug in our amazing mini speaker, extend the bass chamber and prepare to experience rich, bold sound with full clarity and maximum bass.


Portable and rechargeable — up to 8 hours per charge.

Includes USB charging cord and audio cord.




October 24, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: DrugSimple.com — 'The fast track to correct drug information'


Full disclosure: this site offers access to the official product information provided by pharmaceutical makers to the FDA, pretty much what you'll find in the Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR).

The difference?

The PDR costs serious money ($65.79) if you're not a physician (we get it in the mail free every year), whereas the website's free as well as being a heckuva lot easier to use than the monster dead tree iteration.

I happened on the site in an ad in the latest Anesthesiology News, which said, "Simply go to DrugSimple.com, type in the generic or brand name of a drug, and there it is, a hyperlink to the PI [Product Information]. No wasting time with search engines, poking around huge corporate sites, and sorting through long product lists."

Fair enough.

October 24, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Beer Wheel


Nicely done.

From websites:

    Beer Wheel

    Learn the basics of beer without breaking open a book.

    This ingenious Beer Wheel will help you to become acquainted with the various styles of beer, their flavor characteristics and the production process without having to go through all the "brew"-haha.

    From Pilsners to Lagers, this beer wheel has everything you need to know about beer.

    With its practical and easy-to-use spin wheel design, you can become familiar with the unique flavors and traits of the various types of beers around the world and learn about the brewing process as well.

    This is a useful and fun little tool to keep around the house and also makes a great gift for the beer lover in your life.



October 24, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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