You Knew Dalai Was Strange…But this really takes the cake!

A few years ago, when my son was a Cub Scout, our troop held an annual “Dad and Scout” cake contest. The only rules were that moms were not allowed to help, and that all components must be edible (by normal people). My son and I decided to take a rather medical bent, although some would call it macabre. Thus was born the idea of the Scout Patient Cake. The cake itself is red-velvet, nicely simulating tissue. The brain and heart are composed of….marzipan! Yes, Dalai’s brain is made of almond paste… The lips are of the classic wax variety, the eyeballs are strips of white “AirHeads” taffy rolled into balls and adorned with frosting. Large vessels are made of strawberry licorice, and coronaries are drawn in with liquid frosting. Now the hospital blue cover was by far the hardest part of this project. This was made from fondant, a thick frosting-like material that you usually see in cakes more like this one from Krista’s Creations:

That darn stuff is very hard to work with, which is probably why the cake above goes for $300. I have a feeling ours would not command that price.

Back to the Cub Scouts… prizes were awarded in various categories. Our cake took second place overall. I think perhaps the judges were afraid to award us anything less.

You’ll be glad to know that even though the cake went down the dispose-all years ago, I saved the brain and the heart in the freezer, where they remain to this day. You never know when you might need one, right?

A-Wristing Technology…but do they tell time??

We all remember the comic strip “Dick Tracy” wherein the razor-nosed detective wore on his wrist first a walkie-talkie, and in later years a video-phone. I don’t know about you, but I really wanted one of these when I was a kid, and nothing much has changed.

Well, actually, something has changed…technology has caught up with fiction, and there are some expensive toys available that do approach this level of sophistication.

First, there is was a watch marketed as a “Dick Tracy” special, made by Fossil:

This little $200 gem uses the MSN Direct network, a subscription wireless service that sends accurate time to the watch, as well as sports scores, stock prices, news, etc. The downside here is that the service is expensive (~$10/month), and there is no uplink back to the Internet. I’m not sure if it’s still available.

If you don’t want to communicate, but do want the joys of watching videos and hearing MP3’s on your watch, then this latest series of watches from China might be up your alley. (My son is considering squandering some of his allowance on one of these, and if he does, I’ll let you know how he likes it.) Below is a photo from of this rather large contraption…it’s almost a video iPod with a wrist strap:

These things are only $50-$100 or so, depending on how much memory you purchase with them (they are currently available with up to 4Gb of RAM!)

The Holy Grail of wrist machines is, of course, a real wrist cell-phone, and there is finally one for sale to the masses, although the masses would need to cough up $1000 Australian (about $850 US.) This feature-packed M500 comes from SMS Technology Australia,

Look at these specs:

Model M500 Quad Mode, Touchscreen, Java and WAP enabled

Weight: 60g

Color: Silver or Black with Leather Strap

Screen: TFT 1.5 – inch colour touchsreen 120 x 160

Frequency: GSM850/900/1800/1900Mhz (GPRS), SIM

SMS: Full SMS and MMS functionality

MP3: Support AAC/MP3

MP4: Support Video Playing

Touchscreen with Built-in Stylus

Memory: 128MB Built-in Memory

Battery: 400mAh, Talk Time 200 Minutes, Standby Time 80 Hours

USB: For Data Transfer and Recharging

Bluetooth 2.0

This thing should work on any GSM network, including AT&T. The only downside (besides the rather outrageous price) is that one must use a Bluetooth headset, but that isn’t much of a limitation these days.

There is nothing like being on the bleeding edge, especially if you can afford it! And yes, if you were wondereing, all of these wrist-marvels do tell time….

PACS Pioneers…and my brush with greatness

In researching another post, I ran across this article from Imaging Economics about the history of PACS. It is a very brief synopsis of the path to today’s filmless world of Radiology. I won’t try to summarize the summary, but suffice it to say that PACS (although they didn’t call it that until fairly recently) had its start at several centers around the world, with the perseverance of a number of true visionaries. Probably the most important single milestone was the development of the DICOM standard which (at least in theory) allows scanners from Manufacturer A to communicate with viewers from Manufacturer B. Before DICOM, everyone had a proprietary code for everything, and the PACS pioneers actually had to reverse-engineer and decode tapes, which must have been just a load of fun.

My brief contact with the “Great Ones” of PACS occured in 1992, and it was the idea of a local businessman. This gentleman owned the storage facility in which we archived the zillions of films taken over the years. He had heard of the work Bernie Huang, PhD, was doing at UCSF, and decided to see it for himself. He was so impressed that he took a couple of us radiologists, and a hospital administrator out to see Dr. Huang.

In 1992, there was no such thing as the PACS we have today. Dr. Huang’s operation consisted of what we might call today a couple of mini-PACS operations, without much standardization. There was a tape jukebox sitting in the middle of the lab, workstations here and there, digitizers, and whatnot everywhere. But Dr. Huang’s vision was clear…this was the future, and film was not.

When we returned home from UCSF, our “patron” asked what we thought of the whole thing. I responded, “It’s great, it’s obviously where we are headed, but…. The hospital isn’t going to buy, let alone be able to maintain, a system comprised of loose pieces of technology. Someone has to put it all in one box before it will become practical.” I’m not sure if our friend agreed or not, but he never did approach us with any proposal.

A year later, we were in negotiations with Agfa for our first PACS, and we were on our way to becoming one of the first filmless departments in the country.