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Gordy’s Straps review

A camera strap should be the essence of simplicity: a strip of flexible material worn around the neck, holding gravity in abeyance, lest your assembly of polycarbonate, glass, and silicon crash expensively to earth like an obsolete Soyuz. How hard can that be?

Quite difficult it seems, once the marketing folks try to “differentiate” their straps with feature creep. Thus a humble bit of tack-work becomes a feature-packed, over-engineered flying buttress of buckles, pads, pouches, swivels, and trusses, designed to defy physics like Jane Russell’s Eighteen-Hour Bra. Sure, something like a Blackwater mercenary’s MOLLE gear was probably required when “camera” mean an anvil-heavy box of steel and glass, but our kit has slimmed down considerably in the mirrorless micro-4/3 and APS-C era. Even medium-format aficionados like myself have discovered the joys to be found in these smaller cameras, with their astounding image quality. And when your camera and lens together weigh barely a pound, you don’t need a horse collar to support them.

I had occasion to ponder this first-world problem upon the recent arrival of my Fujifilm X-T1, which I hope to review here anon. I disdain, sight unseen, the straps that come with cameras, for they are inevitably cheap, garish, and uncomfortable. I’ve not even deigned to unwrap the last half-dozen, and I was not about to start with the Fuji. That set me on a search for a suitable strap, with “simple” and “well made” as my chief criteria. I’d previously reviewed one such strap, the Lance, for Fraction Magazine. Though it has served me well and comfortably toting my X-Pro1, its filamentous camera-attachment threads have always given me irrational pause. With no disrespect to Lance, it was time to look afield.

Enter Gordy’s Straps. Some photographers of my acquaintance have spoken highly of Gordy’s wares, so I decided to give him a try. I ordered a 48-inch strap in russet, one of four available colors, with metal split-rings to attach to the camera’s lugs. You can choose any fixed length, as well as an adjustable version, and one of three non-interchangeable attachment methods. The ends of the straps are looped back onto themselves, glued and stapled into place to enclose the attachment hardware, and the joint is attractively finished and reinforced with a winding of waxed polyester cord available in 14 colors. These things are strong, and look like they could support far more weight than you’d care to have around your neck.

I’ve been using the strap for a couple of weeks, and I like it. For any camera+lens combo much heavier than the Fujis, like your average CaNikoSony DSLR, I’d want to have the optional neck pad, which must be ordered at original purchase since it can’t be retrofitted. For the welterweight Fuji, though, the pad would be overkill. I sometimes use it as a long wrist strap, and it’s perfect in that role, wound around my forearm with the camera in my hand. Worn around the neck, the 48” length on my 5’11” frame allows the camera to bounce against my steely abs in just the right spot. If you, however, displace less than my frigate-like bulk, you might get by with a shorter strap.

I haven’t mentioned the prices, which you can find for yourself on Gordy’s site. Compared to some of the leather straps I looked at, Gordy’s latigo leather isn’t as highly polished and precious, but it is well-finished and attractive. It reminds me of a well-broken-in bridle, more than a Coach wallet, as is proper for a piece of working kit. I suppose I should disclaim here that I bought mine at full price with my own allowance, and have no connection to Gordy except as a satisfied customer.

If you’re looking for a well-made and functional leather strap, you should look at Gordy’s Straps.


Googling My Patients

A thoughtful friend recently pointed me to this New York Times essay by a physician-in-training, Dr. Warraich. She discusses the ethical ramifications of Googling her patients for information beyond what she could obtain through a traditional face-to-face history and physical examination. The author believes doctors should resort to such third-party sources of information only when there is a “safety issue”.  Well, yes. But.

Leave aside for now that “safety issue” is a pretext that could be stretched like a latex exam glove to cover a meaty fistful of iniquity. Dr. Warraich and I both stipulate good intentions; for considerations of ethics, intentions matter more than results. But after years of making critical decisions, too often with incomplete information, I’d never want to arbitrarily exclude Google, or any other potentially useful source, out of an erroneous sense of ethical unease. The ethical conundrum arises not in obtaining information, but in deciding how that information will be used to further the therapeutic goals of the doctor-patient relationship. The issue is power and its exercise, not the information per se, or how it’s obtained.

While Dr. Warraich and I agree that Google shouldn’t replace an actual face-to-face history and physical exam, there are circumstances in which your clinical “Spidey sense” — refined over decades of training and practice, and ignored at your peril — tells you that something is just not right.  With the patient unwilling or unable to cooperate, and family members unavailable or clueless, supplementing the “H & P” with further information, however you can get it, is the right thing to do.

Dr. Warraich cites two such cases. In the first, a patient tried to talk her way into a double mastectomy for a nonexistent illness. In the other, a surprise laboratory test result pointed to an undiscovered history of substance abuse. In both patients, clinical impressions did not jibe with hard data; information gleaned from web searches enabled the medical teams to do the right thing for the patients. The first patient’s caregivers thereby avoided unnecessarily operating on her; one hopes that they were able to get her the psychiatric care she obviously needed. In the second case, Dr. Warraich’s recounting leaves me uncertain whether the substance abuse was directly related, or merely incidental, to the patient’s current illness. Regardless, she recovered uneventfully.

Dr. Warraich chose not to confront the second patient with her internet findings, when the confrontation wouldn’t have advanced the therapeutic cause. She need not feel she “violated [the] patient’s privacy” in resorting to Google, through the purest of intentions, to obtain those findings. Once in possession of the information, she declined to exercise simply for its own sake the unequal power it gave her over her patient. That sounds like ethical doctoring, not cause for hand-wringing.

Conquering the Apostrophe: A Pedant’s Plea

What is it with the apostrophe? Slacker among punctuation marks, it has only two jobs: to indicate letters missing from word contractions, and to form possessive nouns. Yet you’d think it was a semicolon or an em-dash or something equally obscure, as often as writers botch its deployment.

English nouns get by quite nicely without the complex inflections of other languages.1 For the most part, they don’t change form as they switch cases between subject and object, since English relies on word order to convey those meanings. To form plurals, nouns need only an additional letter or two. One dog becomes two dogs, whether the dog chases the cat or the girls walk their dogs. And much to the relief of anyone who’s had to learn English, you don’t need an entire case to indicate possession — you just need an apostrophe-s, so that the girl can scratch her dog’s ears.

Pronouns, on the other hand, are the language’s stunt doubles, standing in for nouns taking a breather lest they wear out their welcome. Unlike nouns, pronouns retain at least the spirit of Latin’s inflected-ness by changing form as they change case and number. He becomes him or his, and two or more he‘s become they, them or their.2 Hardy and self-reliant, pronouns disdain the apostrophe, except in forming contractions.

This last truth, however, seems to lie undiscovered among contemporary writers of English, because every day — in publications both obscure and prestigious — someone apostrophe-slaps a pronoun, trying to coax a possessive from it. Forgivable, perhaps, in an unedited blog. But amazingly, this gets past writers and editors in publications that pay their people to know better.

A frequent victim of unwanted apostrophic harassment is it, that humble, neuter, third-person, singular pronoun. How hard can it be to get a two-letter word right? It remains it whether subject or object, and when two or more it’s congregate, their singular it–ness gives way to a common, plural they–hood. And, unlike he and his, and they and their, it wants only a tacked-on ssans apostrophe — to indicate possession.

Yet I’ve seen apostrophes studding every it-ish interstice like shrapnel, as if a desperate writer, wanting to dislodge a recalcitrant possessive holed up in the language bunker, lobbed in a punctuation grenade. It’s [sic]? Its’ [SIC!]? Makes you want to weep. You’d think someone dropped their Elements of Style on it’s [SIC! SIC!] spine, and spilled all the letters.

Doing it right is so simple: if you are tempted to write it’s or their’s or some other apostrophic abomination when you want to indicate pronoun possession, stop and read the sentence aloud. Substitute it is for it’s, or there is for their’s. If the sentence sounds right and makes sense, then you’re good to go. If not, ditch the apostrophe and move along.

  1. Seven Latin cases, two numbers, and three genders’ worth of noun and pronoun forms, times five declensions of nouns. Plus the irregulars. Amazing the Romans found time to subjugate the world, with all that grammar to master. Apparently Greek was just as bad. 
  2. Corresponding to the Latin nominative, accusative/dative/ablative, and genitive cases, respectively. 

Why I Don’t Treat My Own Kids

Sitting in the living room, head down in my laptop, I was largely oblivious to the kitchen’s conversational murmurings. But it seeped into my consciousness that my daughter, days on, was still feeling poorly. She described a few days of headache, nausea, malaise, vague aches and pains, and fatigue. No definite fever, but a sore throat and a stuffy head lingered.

Any kid raised by healthcare professionals, among whom E.R. nurses and doctors of any stripe are the worst, will tell you that we are tough arbiters of what constitutes “sick”. Quotidian aches and pains? Nice try, but you’re going to school. Flu? Why bother with a trip to the doctor’s pestilent waiting room, when she has so little to throw against that torment? Crushing, radiating substernal chest pain in an immediate family member? Obviously indigestion; take some Maalox so I can finish my book in peace. Only a kitchen knife, quiveringly embedded in a skull, pulsatile hemorrhagic jets, or limbs bent at anatomically impossible angles will get much of a rise out of the medical parent. Even then, we will suspect malingering.

I did pause long enough to run through a mini-differential diagnosis. Rejecting flu, cholera, typhus, ague, pleurisy, Ebola virus, tertiary syphilis, and Naegleria fowleri amoebic brain abscess, I came up with mononucleosis,  because I vaguely recalled from my pediatric rotation in the 1980’s that, among older teens, “mono” is common enough to have a nickname, and presents symptoms at least overlapping hers. Even better, it’s almost never fatal, so I could dismiss this self-limiting problem and still feel smug in my knowledge.

Did I examine the patient? Surely you jest. Any reader with a teenager knows they behave like truculent baboons under examination by their parents, medical degree or not. God forbid you should interrupt their tweeting fingertips to muss the hair or rumple the carefully-arranged clothing as you feel for the enlarged cervical lymph node. And who knows where I put my antique oto-ophthalmoscope set, purchased in medical school, with its long-dead, non-standard NiCad battery pack. Instead, I did the sort of dart-board diagnosing, if only in my mind, that qualifies as malpractice elsewhere.

Therefore, mom took daughter to the pediatrician the next day, who properly examined the patient and discovered a sinus infection. Purulent nasal discharge, fluid levels behind inflamed eardrums; oh, yeah, hadn’t thought of those. The doc thought so little, evidently, of my clairvoyant diagnostic surmise that she didn’t even do a Mono-spot. Antibiotics were purveyed, school release printed, and that was that. The patient is improving despite her father’s ministrations.

The old saw holds that the person who treats himself has a fool for a physician, and more so when you’re doctoring family members. For one, primary care is simply not my field of expertise. But further, the heart refuses to ponder that anything evil might ever be wrong with a dear one, so your medical mind glides over the awful bottom of the differential list, province of the lethal and rare. However you try to resist, it alights instead on the minor, common stuff at the top, and waves away the problem. While sick strangers are a duty, a charge, and a puzzle to be solved, family members are precious jewels to be preserved from harm with talismans and wishful thinking.

Since the day I got my medical license, knowing these truths, I have never, not once, written a prescription for a family member. I sleep far better at night knowing someone else is responsible for diagnosing and treating my family. I have to think everyone is better off for it.