Electronic Design

Bob's Mailbox

Dear Bob:

Relating to your information on magnesium and skipped heartbeats at altitude: For those who might have respiratory problems resulting in diminished capacity to transfer oxygen to the blood, it's like being at altitude even though your actual elevation is moderate. Magnesium may be a help for those folks too.

Good point! As I indicated, anybody with skipped beats might consider a couple of magnesium tablets, just to see if it does more good than harm. I'd be surprised if it didn't do more good than harm.—RAP

Dear Bob:

Many excellent medicines trace their way back to the personal observations of some experimenter. Aspirin traces back to Native Americans chewing on a certain tree bark. Ortho-arthritis is another area where user observation seems to be making more rapid progress than the medical field.

Potassium is a critical element and the correct individual balance, too high or too low, can equally be a problem. Some people are on salt-restricted (sodium-chloride) diets (usually to prevent retention of fluids). Frequently, they use a salt substitute, which is typically potassium chloride. Too many bananas and too much salt substitute can depress the heart rate to life-threatening levels. In August 2002 my mother was hospitalized with a heart rate of 25 to 30 beats per minute. She was given IV treatments to reduce the potassium level in her blood and bring her heart rate back up. (But I bet she had no leg cramps! /rap)

It pays to read the labels to look at the total quantity of any chemical or drug that you are ingesting. Recently, there has been much on the news about the dangers of Tylenol overdose. Much of the problem traces back to the use of an OTC medicine that includes Tylenol (such as common sinus medicines) and then the addition of "extra strength" Tylenol to help cure the headache. Again, a problem with total intake. Doctors used to recommend taking salt tablets on long, hot hikes. What happened to that advice?

I think it is still there. I usually bring salty foods on hot, sweaty marches. In Nepal, we drank a pint of very salty noodle soup for lunch—and it was JUST RIGHT! I think we knew that we were working up a salt deficiency. We often had some salty food at supper, too, and it tasted great! Fried rice with tuna and soy sauce!—RAP

Dear Bob:

Here's a question for you. I have been unable to obtain a definition for "floobydust." I was wondering if you could give me a specific definition of that word. I found information that may be true: "'Floobydust' is a contemporary term derived from the archaic Latin miscellaneus, whose disputed history probably springs from Greek origins (influenced, of course, by Egyptian linguists)—meaning here 'a mixed bag'—National Semiconductor Audio Handbook, 1976." And congratulations on your induction into the E.E. Hall of Fame! (Thank you! /rap)

I think the definition goes ALL THE WAY BACK to—1975. Not much Greek or Egyptian influence. The guys who coined it were Dennis Bohn and maybe Tim Isbell, and a customer and his daughter; names mercifully forgotten.... The "dictionary" on the Web that tells you this origin of the term was a minibook written by Dennis Bohn. So, we can't stop him from spreading his own definition and origin story! But it was the name of Chapter 6 in NSC's 1976 Audio-Radio Handbook, and we all agree it means "miscellaneous."—RAP

Dear Bob:

Wow! I completely agree with your evolving self-diagnosis philosophy. I've had the same experience. For the most part, I now treat my body as just another engineering subsystem that needs to be debugged. My body worked fine yesterday, so if there's a problem today, the question, "What did you change last?" usually gives all the clues needed. (We sure agree! As in "Hey, what WAS I drinking (or eating) last night?" /rap)

If that fails to isolate the problem, I go into the mode of changing one variable at a time and recording the effects until the offending action/food/situation is isolated. I've had pretty good luck self-diagnosing. I think I'm better than my doctor at the simple stuff. I can monitor the DUT all day long! (Exactly! But if you had leg cramps, you might not have any way to know that potassium can fix 'em. Not easy to find out! You might not know that taking three Advils, every six hours, is different than taking one Advil, two hours apart, three times. People ain't LINEAR systems. /rap) No way my doctor would spend that amount of time. Plus, I have greater incentive to fix the problem. Of course, if simple debugging fails, I go right to my doctor. Engineers are people too. I hope your editor continues to let you ramble on nonengineering subjects. Your wisdom in all areas needs to be passed on.

Thank you!—RAP

All for now. / Comments invited!
RAP / Robert A. Pease / Engineer
[email protected]—or:

Mail Stop D2597A
National Semiconductor
P.O. Box 58090
Santa Clara, CA 95052-8090

More Doctoring Stuff: You may not know that back pain can be aggravated by (or even caused by) sleeping flat on your back. Put a fat pillow or rolled-up cloth or sleeping bag under your knees to relieve the pain. /rap

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