MAIL BAG

‘Bell never used Elisha Gray’s idea and so did not infringe on any intellectual property’

February 25 2008
MAIL BAG

‘Bell never used Elisha Gray’s idea and so did not infringe on any intellectual property’

February 25 2008

‘Bell never used Elisha Gray’s idea and so did not infringe on any intellectual property’

MAIL BAG

SCOLIOSIS CONTROVERSY

I WOULD LIKE to thank Sharon Dunn for sharing her information about scoliosis (“Amazing brace,” Health, Feb. 4). Our daughter, now in her 30s, was diagnosed with it as a child and referred to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. We were told the same story—nothing we can do, but surgery is not recommended at this time. It is sad that a brace developed here in Canada is not supported by all of the provincial health ministries. Surely the cost of the SpineCor brace for a child is far less than the cost of surgery for an adult 25 years later; not to mention that it is a far better and safer choice.

Bob Reiber, Chatham, Ont.

AS AN ADULT scoliosis case and as a graduate nurse from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, I can’t believe what I’ve read about English Canada ignoring the SpineCor brace co-invented by a doctor here in Montreal at Sainte-Justine’s Hospital. Parents should be appalled.

Jean O’Neill, Westmount, Que.

THIS ARTICLE made me wish I could have used the SpineCor brace myself. However, it saddened me to think of parents who might be reading this whose children have no choice but to get the spinal fusion surgery. The way your writer portrayed people who have had the spinal fusion was, at the very least, onesided. In November 1996, my doctor discovered an 80-degree curve in my spine and decided there was no other choice for me but to get the surgery. I had spinal fusion performed at Vancouver Children’s Hospital in February 1997 at the age of 13.1 had two rods implanted in my spine and all the vertebrae were fused except one at the lumbar spine. I was told they could not straighten my spine, just stop it from getting worse.

I was overweight when the surgery was performed and I found life to be pretty painful. When, at age 19,1 lost 60 lb. and became fit and healthy, I experienced a dramatic decline in any pain. I am now nine months pregnant and throughout the pregnancy I have remained pain-free save for a few bad days. I may one day have to have my last vertebrae fused to prevent major arthritis problems, but overall I have been quite happy with the surgery. Perhaps Dunn could have done a little more research on successful

cases of spinal fusion and not just made the decision all that much harder and more uncomfortable for parents of children with severe scoliosis.

Elizabeth Nyland, Victoria

THE AL SHAMAL SHRINERS of Edmonton and Northern Alberta have recendy committed $1.5 million, of which $500,000 has been paid, to the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta, for research into the cause of and to find a cure for scoliosis. With this dedication and commitment it is anticipated that this painfid disability will soon be no more. In the meantime, the Shriners of Canada, and for that matter all of North America, are willing to assist scoliosis sufferers medically and their parents financially Lloyd Manning,

Lloydminster, Sask.

SHARON DUNN was correct: adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is not understood by the medical profession. Spinal curvature starts with a minor irritation to the segmental nerve. This causes muscle shortening on that side of the spine, pulling it down to cause a curvature. The condition quickly responds to release of the muscle shortening by needling the muscle.

(This procedure is called intramuscular stimulation, and although an acupuncture needle is used, it is not traditional acupuncture.)

Consulting the right specialist is important.

Dr. C. Chan Gunn,

President, Institute for the Study and Treatment of Pain, Vancouver

HOBBY HORSES

I AM SORRY that my first letter to Maclean’s isn’t about something more substantial, but I just have to let you know how irritated I was by two references in the article on scrapbooking to fathers “babysitting” their own children (“Scrapbook widowers get unglued,” Help, Feb. 4). The definition of babysitting in the American Heritage Dictionary is “to take care of a child or children in the absence

of a parent or guardian.” When I see language like this used, I really wonder whether women have made much progress in changing the perception of parenthood. You don’t often hear mothers describing the care they give their own children as “babysitting.”

Martha Russell, Courtenay, B.C.

SUCH A DISAPPOINTING and negative article about scrapbooking. Millions of people are enjoying this hobby and preserving their family histories. Too bad you had to trash them.

E. Anne MacKenzie, Senior Institutional Programs Administrator, Chair, Internal Programs Adjudication, Research Services Office, University of Alberta, Edmonton

A RINGING ENDORSEMENT

BRIAN BETHUNE’S discussion about Seth Shulman’s book The Telephone Gambit leaves confused the question of whether Alexander Graham Bell stole from American inventor Elisha Gray (“Did Bell steal the idea for the

phone?” History, Feb. 4). Bethune could have explained better by eschewing Shulman’s opinion and sticking to facts, first of telephone technology, second of patent law. Sound can be converted to mechanical motion by vibrating a diaphragm. The telephone problem is to get the mechanical motion to modify an electric current. The standard history is that Bell formulated the problem in

‘Thanks for the excellent article on Whistler. I’m sure taxpayers reading it will feel better about the $2 billion or so going to support the two-week super-party there in 2010.’

1874, proposed a solution by having a bit of steel vibrate in a magnetic field, and had a working, but not good, model by mid-1875.

On Feb. 14,1876, Bell filed a telephone patent application. On the same day, Elisha Gray filed a patent caveat for a different idea, which was that the current would flow through a wire, then a needle, then water, then another wire, and if the needle was vibrated, the current in the second wire would be modified. It appears that Bell did read Gray’s caveat, since Shulman shows that on March 9, Bell drew in his notebook a diagram that is functionally identical to Gray’s drawing. But filing a patent or caveat has these effects: l) the idea is made public (and it must be an original idea, not previously publicized); 2) if a patent is granted, the inventor gets sole commercial use of the idea for a few years; 3) after that, everybody can use the idea freely. By the end of the day on Feb. 14, Bell and Gray had a right to read each other’s applications, but not to use them commercially. Bell later confirmed that he knew about Gray’s idea, but he never made any use of it, and so did not infringe on intellectual property.

Denis Howarth, Coquitlam, B.C.

TAXES, SHORT AND SWEET

I REALLY ENJOYED Andrew Coyne’s article on changing the tax system into something that is sensible (“Do your taxes on a postcard! Save time, and money!” Opinion, Jan. 28). The last time the system was supposedly

“fixed” it went from bad to worse. It is nice to see that a think tank like the Fraser Institute is capable of thinking; my only question is what took it so long? I have been telling everybody who would listen that Canadians need a flat tax. The system now just goes after the middle-income earners and forgets about the high-income bracket. The top tax bracket now is supposed to be 29 per cent. Guess again. I was paying upwards of 35 per cent when I was still working, and with all the other special fees, there was no way to get ahead. I can see tax lawyers and accountants getting upset because they would not be needed anymore. Besides, where would the Grinch live if not at Revenue Canada? Charles Matson, Henryville, Ind.

THE END ZONE

I WAS VERY SADDENED to read about the death of Texas teacher and outdoorsman Perry Alvin Price (The End, Feb. 4). It was so unnecessary. As an avid hunter for all of my 60-plus years, the first thing I do when I am going to hunt or returning is unload the gun. I know of no hunter who would put a loaded gun in the back of a truck, with or without dogs. Rod Roberts, Nanaimo, B.C.

WHY WOULD YOU waste paper on Perry Price? His only accomplishment was a lifetime of wanton destruction. It’s ironic that he was killed with his own gun, but the world is a better place without him.

Earl Darlington, Toronto

I would like to make a suggestion. The stories of senseless loss on your last page, The End, leave me feeling sad. Since most of your stories already deal with crises and problems, it would be great if you could end your magazine with an uplifting story, maybe pertaining to climate change and the environment.

Ellen Fox, Huntsville, Ont.

KING OF THE HILLS

HAVING LIVED in Whistler, B.C., off and on for the past three years, I thought I would share with you a few things you probably didn’t know about Whistler (“The other side of the mountain,” Society, Feb. 4). I bet you didn’t know that the spa attendant handing you a towel is a computer science graduate who just developed a new database for the rental program at the hotel. I bet you didn’t know that the young woman at guest relations returning your lost glove is attending law school in the fall or that your ski instructor just returned from volunteering at an orphanage in Africa.

The Whistler I know is full of bright, educated young people who are simply avoiding the real world a little bit longer. Not all of us are here for the sex, drugs and powder—although no one is going to complain about a little powder. What we are here for is the lifelong friendships, the love of the snow and possibly the nachos at Merlin’s. That said, with over 46 ft. of snow last year and the most skiable terrain in North Amer-

ica, you should probably come check it out for yourself.

Melissa Pressnail,

Whistler, B.C., and Vancouver

YOUR STORY CONFIRMS my adage that the further away from Whistler a story about Whistler is published, the greater the bulls-t quotient. For instance, the article states (twice) that model Heidi Klum and Seal got engaged at 14,000 ft., at the top of a glacier. The highest peak in the Whistler region is Wedge Mountain at just over 9,600 ft. Whistler at its heart is a small town with schools, families with kids and mortgages, and people with regular jobs or running businesses. The kind of resort fantasy-life that is described in your story does exist, but it is only a small part of the Whistler experience.

John Hetherington, Whistler, B.C.

THANKS for the excellent article on Whistler. I am sure that taxpayers reading it will feel better about the $2 billion or so going to support the two-week super-party there in 2010. Let’s hope the “free” publicity of the Olympics will be enough to keep those $400 hotel rooms filled and all the sexand snow-crazed Aussie teenagers working in their minimumwage jobs.

Gary McCaig, PortAlberni, B.C.

TALKING DIRTY IN OTTAWA

KUDOS TO Maclean’s for Scott Feschuk’s column on Sexapalooza, the adult-themed consumer trade show in Ottawa (“Porn, toys, handcuffs, and one repressed columnist,” Comment, Feb. 4). Feschuk appropriately captured the spirit in his piece about the first such show devoted to all things sexual in this city. I liked the fact that he resisted the temptation to remind readers that Ottawa is a city known for its staunch conservatism. The sub-

ject matter for my seminar, “Dirty Talk in Five Easy Steps,” was, to my mind, a logical choice. I write vampire erotica novels that, in effect, talk dirty to readers.

I think most couples would agree that modern relationships are constantly besieged by competing life priorities. Having good sex is an integral aspect of togetherness, but clearly not easily achieved. That’s why it was my pleasure to help equip people with the sexual skills of speaking smut. Being a political magazine, and literary too, Maclean’s can attest to the fact that words have the power to influence and affect change. I had not anticipated the attendance, which exceeded 70 people. This either tells me that the subject of dirty talk needs to be talked about more often, or Ottawans are anxious to inject some excitement into their otherwise conservative sex lives.

Patricia Kathleen McCarthy, Ottawa

IN PASSING

Roy Scheider, actor, 75. Best remembered for playing the small-town sheriff in 1975’s blockbuster, Jaws, he was also nominated for two Academy Awards, for playing a cop opposite Gene Hackman in 1971’s The French Connection and as a proxy for choreographer-director Bob Fosse in 1979’s All That Jazz.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 91, mystic. He reinterpreted ancient Hindu methods, introduced transcendental meditation, and became a significant influence on 1960s pop culture, especially through his much-photographed interaction with the Beatles. He also created the notion of levitating through meditation, called yogic flying. His age was approximate.