Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhone: iDon't Think So

The Day has approached for weeks now. The Big Day.
The day the iPhone is rolled out to the world.

Well, not exactly the world. But at least those hardy head cases
who have been willing to camp out on city streets to be the first
to get into a store and buy one.

They don’t need an iPhone. They need a life.

But, this is not a day to bite the Apple, but to behold the Book of (Steve) Jobs,
and his creation. Or at least his hype.

It is sleek. It is shiny. It is packed with features a single cell phone has never had before. It is $500 bucks for crying out loud--it should be packed with incredible features.

But guess what? It isn’t.

I have done some careful research, combed Apple’s own promotional ( information, and pieced together what the vaunted iPhone will NOT do. And in terms of what’s NOT there, it’s a sobering list to say the least.

-Start your car? Not happening with the iPhone. Hell, these days you can buy a remote car starter with full keyless entry for less than $70. ( And they can’t add that little trifle to the iPhone? For shame, Apple, for shame.

-Anything on it for your car? Zippo, zilch, zero, nothing, nada, bupkes. How can this be? Where do they think people are using their sleek new iPhones? In their sleek new cars, of course. How about including a radar detector, an overheating sensor, maybe a simple garage door opener? Nope. Okay, a measly little tire pressure gauge? They give ‘em out for free for crying out loud at Tony’s Tire World! Forget it. Baffling, just baffling.

-Monitor your blood pressure? Gauge insulin levels? Not on your new iPhone. Why include that, you ask? Why not? With all the hype that Apple has attracted for itself with the iPhone’s road-to-the-rollout, why not have gone that little extra mile for medicine? Create a certain public service component to the carnival. But no. They’d rather gum it all up with GPS and MP3 and who cares if some users have high blood pressure or diabetes? Not Apple. No, you’re on your own with your iPhone. Use it to call an ambulance. Oh, wait--its service depends on AT&T, the worst carrier on the market. Oops. Good luck.

-Make coffee? Dream on. Oh, sure it will wake you up with a choice of 47 different alarm modes and tones, but then what? Then you desperately want a cup of hot, steaming coffee to sip while you fire up that sleek screen and go through your email, edit your playlist, and read the New York Times online. Coffee? Make it yourself. Please -- you can buy a 4-cup Mr. Coffee online these days ( for under $20. Heaven forbid you get one included on your $500 Mr. iPhone.

-Flowbee? Forget about it. How hard would it have been to have included the world’s most popular home hair-cutting system? Not very. Apple went with AT&T as its carrier because reportedly the communications giant was more compliant than Verizon. You think Flowbee wouldn’t have completely restructured its entire corporate identity to have been included on the iPhone?
The entire Flowbee haircut system complete with Super Mini-Vac costs a mere $89.90 online. ( Nowhere to be found on your iPhone. And you could use a trim there, too, big boy.

So there you have it. For all its super-cool, supposedly revolutionary new features, the iPhone is ipoppingly bereft of some of life’s most basic everyday conveniences. Sure you know by now about its bold new touch-screen interface system. But did you know that Flowbee also makes a pet attachment so you can trim your dog or cat as well?

iPhone? Don’t even look.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Physician, Hush Thyself

A new study alleges that doctors are overly chatty during patient visits, and worse--talk too much about themselves. Self-centered doctors? No!

Writing in the Archives of Internal Medicine (which, by the way, I understand has a totally wild personals section), researchers wrote that physician "disclosures, both not useful and disruptive, interrupted the flow of information exchange and expended valuable patient time in the typically time-pressured primary care visit."

Here is an actual doctor/patient exchange from the study:

DOCTOR: So, is that boil any better, Mr. Frumholtz?

PATIENT: Not really, doctor. In fact, not only is it still so painful I have had to buy Morphine on eBay, but I also believe my cancer may be back. Oh, and I think I may have had a minor stroke during breakfast this morning according to my wife.

DOCTOR: Speaking of strokes, you're not going to believe this--I shot a 67 at Ballymore yesterday. Do you remember how windy it was? Unreal. So how's tricks?

If you are like most people, an overly chatty doctor is the least of your problems. Hello? Not that I am a researcher for the august Archives of Internal Medicine (if you're still online there looking for the personals I was just kidding), but I think I speak for patients everywhere when I point out to these presumably otherwise brilliant folks that (a) the thing that interupts the flow of patient exchange, and (b), expends valuable patient time is NOT the fact that doctors talk about themselves too much, but the fact that they are always, always, always LATE.

Perhaps that rather significant fact somehow eluded the researchers, and will be included next month in the Archives of Painfully Obvious and Really Self-Evident Facts of Life.

If you're like me, you would be only too happy to have your doctor talk about anything he or she wanted to if they would never keep you waiting again. Hell, I would be happy to use sign language or write my comments on little yellow post-its if my doctor was waiting for me, chart in hand, when I arrive. And then, providing he efficiently carried out whatever it was he was supposed to do that visit, I would give him carte blanche to be a non-stop medical motor mouth. For all I care, he could bounce from what he had for dinner last night to why he switched to Cingular to what he thought of "Knocked Up." If that was the trade-off for never having to wait a single moment for your doctor again, what wouldn't you mind hearing him or her go on about?

("Your daughter's been cast as sorcerer #3 and tree #1 in Rumpelstiltskin? That's fabulous, doctor! And good luck with that new ride-on mower--I'll just fill this prescription then on the way home, and thanks again for being so prompt today!")

So doctors may talk too much.
But apparently only to the people who are scheduled ahead of you.
Finally, an explanation for why they are always running late.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Dork Reform, not Tort Reform

Well, it's over. It didn't have the historial import of the Scopes Monkey Trial. It didn't have the Access Hollywood factor (or the hilarious former-cabby Judge Larry) of the Anna Nicole Smith paternity trial. And it certainly didn't rise to the national obsession of O.J. After all, no Bronco chase, no legal dream team, no Johnnie Cochran and that courtroom catchphrase for the ages--"If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit!"

Although, the case could have been made in this case for a slight variation: "Enough with the rants--and to hell with your pants!"

In fact, those might have been words that Washington Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff was tempted to say to $54-million lost-pants lawsuit defendant Roy Pearson. On Monday, this real-life Judge Judy ruled against Pearson, and for the Korean couple who own Custom Cleaners in Washington, D.C. Incredibly, the case took on a spin cycle of its own, and took two years to churn its way through the legal system. What was Pearson wearing all this time to his own job as an administrative judge, a freaking barrel?

Legal show-off that he apparently is, Pearson based his case on a sign that the store displayed: "Satisfaction Guaranteed." See? He felt he should be able to take that literally. And I think I should be able to take today's weather report as a binding contract between me and the meteorologist.

Alas, Pearson was not satisfied. (Even though the store came up with what they said were his precious lost pants.) So he came up with a brilliantly dorky financial equation which involved the price of the pants multiplied by the cost of cleaning them divided by his days without them get the idea. Just subtract this pathetic putz's personality, divide by the number of legal professionals in the nation, and you get some idea why people hate lawyers and the American court system, and why conservatives take a campaign whack every chance they get at tort reform. Because they know as long as there are frivilous lawsuits, people will generate the same steam out of their ears that dry cleaners use on their pants, lost or otherwise.

And as frivolous lawsuits go, this one was rather up there after all.
Or was this a pantsuit?

Small consolation: Pearson will have to pay the Korean couple's court fee (about $1000), and may have to ultimately pay their legal fees as well, which amount to tens of thousands of dollars. I say Judge Bartnoff scores one for creative sentencing, and allows Soo Chung a good five minutes with Roy Pearson under her pants press.

That should straighten him out.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Vatican Car Talk (The Rosary Meets the Road)

Holy Car.
The Vatican has discovered the automobile.

Or rather, it has discovered that there is more to driving than transportation, and that once behind the wheel, even good people are not always saints.

Word is next week the Vatican will take on that newfangled telephone thing.

The Vatican’s office for migrants and itinerant people has issued a Ten Commandments for Drivers
At a news conference in Rome, the office’s head, Cardinal Renato Martino, explained that the Vatican felt compelled to address the needs of motorists “because driving has become such a big part of contemporary life.”
So has refrigeration and indoor plumbing. What’s next, a “Ten Commandments for Tackling Those Pesky Home Fix-it Problems?”

Seriously, the internal combustion engine is over 100 years old. Automobile accidents have been a fact of life almost as long. How long? When there were still just two horseless carriages on the long-ago streets of Chicago, they collided. Imagine the paperwork involved, considering that car insurance hadn’t been invented yet.

The report is officially titled, “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road.” That sounds suspiciously like a document in my glove compartment: “Guidelines for the Professional Care of your Jeep.” But the similarities end there.

Consider commandment #1: “You shall not kill.”
Now, as I recall, there was no direct mention of that particular point when I took my driver’s license test, but somehow I got the feeling that if they were going to flunk me for screwing up a three-point turn, there was no way I was getting my license if I ran over anyone on the sidewalk.

Commandment #2 is interesting as well: “The road shall be a place of communion between people and not of mortal harm.” But what happens when it’s both at the same time? Ever drive on the L.A. Freeway at rush hour?

Number five raises some interesting questions: “Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination.” I will expect to see faith-loving car dealers re-advertise the Hummer as the “Heretic.”

Commandment #5 also instructs that cars will not be “an occasion of sin.”
Oh, Lord—about that summer between my junior and senior year…..

Commandment #6 (“Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so”) takes 22 words to say what 4 will do more effectively: “Don’t drink and drive.” Amen.

Commandment #9 will raise eyebrows among certain car quarters as well: “On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.” What fun is that? Has the Vatican never heard of NASCAR?

Beyond the Ten Commandments of Driving themselves, the Vatican has some other helpful tips for the road that you won’t find in your AAA brochure. The report extols the benefits of making the sign of the cross before turning the ignition key. Actually, the only time I have ever seen a driver do that was in a scene from “The Sopranos.” And he crossed himself again when the car didn’t explode.

The Vatican also says that, for those of you who know it, reciting the Rosary on the road can be helpful, as its “rhythm and gentle repetition does not distract the driver’s attention.” That may very well be. Curiously though, the Vatican does not address the use of cell phones, PDA’s or sending and receiving emails while driving, which most certainly DO distract the driver’s attention. On the other hand, I guess if you are reciting the Rosary you can’t be ranting on your Bluetooth.

But, why quibble?

There are a few laudable things in the Vatican’s report, like always helping at an accident (even if it's been caused by someone blabbing on their Bluetooth.) Besides, perhaps a few years down the road they will issue a “Ten Commandments for Technical Toys.”

After all, they only just discovered the automobile.