Monthly Archives: November, 2011

Fat Finger Syndrome: How an Electronics Company Avoided giving Away Free Laptops

When Currys, the British high-street electricals chain advertised that it was selling a brand-new netbook at a giveaway price of 10% of its retail price, it was inundated with customers quite naturally at what was ‘the bargain of the century’.

This Samsung Galaxy Netbook, retailing at GBP229, was offered at GBP22.

However it turned out that an incorrect price was put on Currys’ website by a member of staff who mistakenly missed off the last digit.

The retailer said that it was unable to sell the laptop for the amount shown online and has emailed or telephoned all the customers who tried to buy it to explain and apologise. At this point, many customers felt that they were within consumers’ rights to insist that the retailer honour its promise and deliver nonetheless.

But they did not reckon with the fine print in its terms and conditions on its website which made clear that if an item was priced due to human error, then the price does not hold.

And what was the human error? Currys blamed it on fat finger syndrome.

This condition has made headlines several times recently. Of note was the tokyo trader who, in 2006, mistakenly keyed in a transaction order which inadvertently cost him USD 18 million.(see here). In essence, this syndrome refers to the invocation of a unwanted secondary action due to (a) one’s finger being bigger than the envisioned touch zone, or (b) accidental inaccuracy in the fine motor movements of one’s extremities. In simple terms, accidentally pressing an unwanted key on a keyboard. Quite common nowadays with mobile phones being as small as it is!

The Original Fat Finger Syndrome case? A typographical omission of the word "not" in the sentence "Thou shalt not commit adultery." This printing of the Bible has become known as the Wicked Bible( from Wikipedia)


Cholesterol Pills: New Is Not Always Better

Getting a new car or camera model is often equated to pills as well…that the newer version is an improvement over the old. But experience has taught doctors that this is not necessarily true..especially when it comes to medications.

The anti-cholesterol pill Crestor..not better than the older ones

While drug pharmas may go to town extolling the virtues of their new drug releases (which they claim to have undergone extensive research and FDA-approved), it is easy for doctors and the public to be swayed by these promises and switch to the new. Some doctors know this can sometimes backfire. For instance, newer meds have a shorter track record of usage, sometimes not enough for side-effects to appear which  escaped scrutiny during the drug trial period. After prolonged use, previously-undetected side-effects can surface which may even lead to eventual withdrawal of the drug from the market.

The Orlando Convention Center- where the ongoing AHA Meeting is held,Orlando,Florida.

A case in point: at the ongoing American Heart Association (AHA) meeting in Orlando, Florida, November 2011, it was revealed that a popular anti-cholesterol medication Crestor  was not significantly better than the older more popular Lipitor that it intended to replace, in terms of reversing cholesterol blockages in arteries.

For the makers of Crestor, AstraZeneca, this is a double-blow: it had sponsored the clinical trial to demonstrate its superiority over its rival(the SATURN trial). Now that this failed to materialise, it is going to find it tougher to market its drug once its rival loses its patent rights this month.(This means bona fide pharmas can produce non-branded versions, aka generic types, which are considerably cheaper.)

This is of course good news to consumers who now can buy generic Lipitor, at a fraction of the price before, knowing full well that they will not lose benefits extolled by the newer ones. My take-home message though, is that none of the pills are going to work well if one does not incorporate it with change in life-style habits..

Michael Jackson Trial: The Verdict Could Only Go One Way

Efficient Justice - a police guard fastens the handcuffs soon after the verdict is read

The verdict’s in..and the stifled shriek heard in the courtroom when the jury foreman announced it appeared more of a confirmation of the expected, rather than a well-earned heavily-fought court battle.

Indeed, the alibis created by the Dr Conrad Murray‘s defence lawyers that MJ had drunk the propofol (which was eventually dropped) and  that he had self-administered the injection with the intention that the singer could be partially blamed for his death smacked very much of desperation than anything else.

It seemed clear to the jury that propofol, a drug that needs to be administered intravenously, was beyond MJ’s state of mind and ability, especially since  he had already popped in a myriad of sleeping pills earlier. Therefore, the drug had to be administered by the attending doctor. Therein lay the catch – propofol, as an anaesthetic, is only administered with continuous monitoring in a hospital setting, with emergency resuscitation equipment on standby and various devices monitoring the patient’s bodily functions.

The jury was sensationally shown this image of Jackson's dead body by the prosecution early on in Murray's trial (Reuters)

Under California’s tough involuntary manslaughter statute, it is not enough for the defence  to demonstrate that MJ had contributed to his death as a result of his drug addiction; Dr Murray should have forseen, as his attending doctor, that MJ was a drug addict, and hence should have forewarned the victim.

Given this tough standard, there was not much chance of Dr Murray escaping the inevitable conclusion..

Heart Disease – The Goal of Soccer Managers

English soccer team Tottenham Hotspur’s manager, Harry Redknapp will undergo minor heart surgery on Wednesday, according to reports here. As always, the media tends to exaggerate, possibly to increase readership. As anyone knows, a medical procedure to relieve a blockage of one of the heart arteries is basically that – a procedure (called coronary angioplasty)  usually done under local anaesthetic with the patient able to go home the next day. Hardly what is implied when heart surgery is mentioned – an open-heart operation under general anaesthetic carrying far higher risks.

Anyway, the point here is that there seems an increasing number of soccer managers, especially in the English League that have succumbed to various heart ailments. The list includes:

  • Gerard Houlier of Liverpool – in 2001, he  underwent an 11-hour operation for aortic dissection, only for it to recur last year while in charge of Aston Villa, forcing him to quit football altogether.
  • Sir Alex Furguson of Manchester United – has had a permanent pacemaker fitted in 2004 for irregular heartbeats (supraventricular tachycardia).
  • Sam Alladyce of West Ham United –  has had coronary angioplasty in 2009.
  • Joe Kinnear of Newcastle FC –  has had bypass surgery in 2009.

Is there any connection between the rigors of running a Premier League soccer club with players valued at millions of pounds and shareholders baying for a healthy bottom-line with that of heart disease? Your guess is as good as mine. If one were to look at evidence-based clinical research, then there’s not going to be many that will link stress with heart disease. One report by the World Council for Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation concluded that almost half of England’s football managers have “significant” heart problems and their life-consuming, high-pressure jobs are a “recipe for potential disaster” .However, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence (see above!) that leads many to believe that a football manager’s life is full of stress, never mind the financial rewards.

The Stress of Managing A Football Club Can Make a Man Go On His Knees

Says Harry Redknapp : “I am absolutely fine and have no worries about my health but this game can make the most mild-mannered of people explode as when you are sitting on the bench you get eaten up inside from first to last whistle.”

 “After a game I cannot sleep, there is too much going on in my head as I go over moves, think about game plans, think about which player has had a good or bad game – and it’s worse if you lose.”

Indeed, the beautiful game can kill you!

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