Sunday, November 20, 2005


I recently bought an Epson Perfection 4990 scanner. I am remarkably happy with it. It has high resolution, reasonable noise, scans quickly, and it can handle paper, photos, and film. The scanning software does a wonderful job at correcting the color of yellowed old color photos. So far it has only crashed about half a dozen times in around a thousand scans, unlike the crashy crapware provided with many scanners. It simply works, and produces good results. The automatic stuff generally does a good job, and is trivial to turn off when it gets confused. Preview scans, are fast, and you can interactively crop the desired images out of the preview window.

It does have several problems. One complaint is that while the scanning software can record and save 48-bit scans, none of the included software can do anything useful with them. This makes the scanner considerably less useful for enhancing old snapshots with deep shadows or burned-out highlights.

Another is that the scanning software makes extremely poor use of memory. While scanning and compressing images, it constantly accesses the hard drive, whilst hundreds of megabytes of RAM sit idle. Very short-sighted. Bad Epson, no biscuit.

Finally, an irritation is that the Epson scanning software allows you to save and recall commonly-used settings for resolution, color depth, and so forth, but not using your own names. No, they're only listed as "Setting 1", "Setting 2", and so forth. Once again, a superb piece of electromechanical engineering screwed up by some troglodyte programmer drooling into his keyboard.

Here's a sextant I scanned out of an old book.
(Image hosted by Flickr.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Katamari food

This is quite silly.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A new migraine prophylactic?

Memantine (brand name Namenda), marketed for Alzheimer's disease, was found possibly useful for migraine prevention. The drug antagonizes the NMDA receptor, blocking the action of glutamate, the primary excitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It makes sense that that would calm down the overexcitable processes thought to cause migraine.

Unfortunately, the study was small, so it does not have much statistical predictive power. Worse, it was open label. The patients knew they were getting the drug, so there was almost certainly a big placebo effect.

Another problem is that NMDA antagonists are known to cause brain damage, at least in rats, in doses that are not all that much higher than the therapeutic dose. So far the drug has mostly been tested on the demented elderly, which does not really rule out brain damage. I would not want to try memantine until several years of testing has been done on non-demented younger patients.

Side effects: antidepressants for chronic pain

The web page linked above has an excellent table of the pharmacalogical effects of various drugs used for chronic pain. I came across it many moons ago but foolishly did not save a link, and only now have found it again. I will save a copy here to make sure I don't lose it again.

Antidepressant Effects
Drug Antimuscarinic
α-1 blocker3 NE reuptake
5-HT reuptake
T1/2 (hours)*
Amitriptyline 3 3 3 2 4 32–40
Doxepin 2 4 3 1 2 8–25
Imipramine 2 1 1 2 4 6–20
Desipramine 1 0 1 4 3 12–54
Nortriptyline 1 1 2 2 3 15–90
Trazodone 0 0.5 2 0 3 3–9
Fluoxetine 0.5 0 0 1 4 168–210
Bupropion 0 0 0 0 0 0
  1. Blocks the muscarinic-type acetylcholine receptors, an effect commonly called anticholinergic. Causes side effects like increased heart rate, dry mouth, digestive slowing, and so forth.
  2. Blocks H1 and H2 histamine receptors. Causes side effects like drowsiness, reduced stomach acid, and so forth. Probably helps allergies, not that you'd take these drugs for that.
  3. Blocks α-1 (alpha-1) receptors. Causes a variety of effects, most notably relaxation of smooth muscle. This causes small blood vessels to dilate, lowering blood pressure, possibly enough to cause dizziness or even fainting.
  4. Blocks the norepinephrine reuptake transporter, thus exposing brain cells to more of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. May be responsible for antidepressant effects.
  5. Blocks the 5-HT reuptake transporter. (5-HT stand for 5-hydroxytryptamine, also known as serotonin.) This exposes brain cells to more of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
*Half-life, the time it takes for half of a dose to leave the body.

So what does all that mean? For starters, that I ought to try switching from amitriptyline to nortriptyline. It ought to give much less of the obnoxious side effects, but retain much of the anti-migraine value.

Live organ transplants

So, do you mind if we have your liver? Not just for Monty Python any more.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Paris, the city of lovers, is glowing...

True, that's because it's on fire, but still... *

Fortunately the New York Times is on top of the story:

"The corrosive gap between America's whites and its racial minorities, especially African-Americans, is the product of centuries: slavery, followed by cycles of poverty and racial exclusion that denied generation after generation the best the United States could offer. France, on the other hand, is only beginning to struggle with a much newer variant of the same problem: the fury of Muslims of North African descent who have found themselves caught for three generations in a trap of ethnic and religious discrimination."
Note the semantics of victimhood. Trap. Exclusion. Denied. Caught. Discrimination. Underclass.

Not their fault, those nasty Frenchmen dragged their parents to Paris, kept them from seeking out education, forced them to sit around and be angry, made them worship in tatty secondhand mosques. We hates France! Nasty France! We hates it forever!

Meanwhile Aunty Beeb had a story, since quietly altered, tugging your heart strings about the two young boys heartlessly electrocuted. In reality they were nearly-grown men (15 and 17) fleeing police pursuit, who hadn't the sense not to play in the electricity. You know, lads, that's why that big fence with the warning signs and lightning bolt icon is there. That loud hum is the sound of nasty death. Of course, "young boys" can't be expected to know about these things.

To everything
    spin spin spin
There is a slant
    spin spin spin
And a lie for every purpose
Under heaven

*Title lyrics from Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?