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|Letters to the Editor|
Concerning the risk of health problems to children using laptop computers [ " The good, the bad, and the laptops, " Feb. 21], I wouldnít get excited about it.
Iíve been using desktop computers since 1980, and portables since 1990. Iíve had eyestrain, neck cramps, and wrist pain using desktops. Not so with laptops, and Iíve switched over totally to using laptops.
The comments about Ďproperí ergonomics in your article are based on the conventional wisdom for using desktop computers. Most of them are simply either wrong or irrelevant for laptop computer use.
 Repetitive stress injury category: Thatís associated with mouse use, generally. The Apple iBook has no mouse, which is a good thing. The trackpad on these computers allows smaller and more natural finger movements for cursor control. My wrist used to ache after a long stint of writing and editing on a desktop, using a mouse. That problem has disappeared with the switch to laptops and trackpads.
 Monitor viewing ergonomics and viewing distance related to eyestrain, back, and neck stress, etc.: These comments are generally appropriate if one is using a desktop computer in a fixed position, and are wrong or irrelevant for using laptops! Hereís why:
[2.1] Desktop computers force the user into a rigid, relatively unnatural position in order to use them. Want to change your position after hours of typing? Almost any position change will make stress even worse. Thatís why itís advisable to frequently stop using the computer, get up and go to the water cooler or coffee pot. Laptops, on the other hand, can be used in a wide variety of positions, and itís easy to change from one to another if the user begins to feel discomfort. Thatís good, and Iím quite certain kids will take advantage of this. (Appleís introduction of the iMac computer with adjustable LCD screen makes desktop computer use more flexible, a benefit to the user.)
[2.2] LCD laptop screens versus desktop CRT monitors: CRTs flicker, and look fuzzy up close. My experience is that I get much more eyestrain from CRTs than from LCD monitors, which donít flicker and typically have sharper type. Most CRTs are, to say the least, not of professional quality and they age rapidly (get fuzzier), especially in the first year of use. If a kid wants to get up close to an LCD screen to see fine print, let him ó no harm done, and it mimics our natural inclination to pick up a legal paper to look at the fine print!
Conclusion: Ergonomics studies and concerns about computer uses in typical business offices are generally irrelevant to laptop computer use, so they would be wrongheaded if they were applied to laptop use. I most certainly donít have concerns about a Ďrisk of major health problemsí for kids using laptop computers in support of their school studies. Let common sense prevail. Teachers will have to control inappropriate use of laptops by kids, but much more often because of concern about proper use and care of the computer equipment than about injury to the kids.
Baton Rouge, LA
The people of Portland have been offered a golden opportunity to promote the health of our community. Weed-spraying of the highly toxic chemical, Roundup [see " To Roundup or not to Roundup, " Aug. 23, 2002], is one of the potential cuts in city " services " that will benefit us (while the cutting of other vital services like closing police and fire stations as well as teen programs is shameful; I think of this as a sort of " trickle down " effect caused by our current Washington administration policies.)
Recently, Portland Pesticide Watch presented the City Council with over one thousand postcards signed by Portland citizens who are against the spraying of the toxic weed killer. It has been proven that the " terrorists " who do the spraying for the city are less than competent, and, for Godís sake, they are spraying the sidewalks our children play on! Make your voice heard. Give your councilman or woman a call to tell them: No more spraying!
Looking at a National Geographic map of the Caspian sea region, the surrounding countries and seas. The Persian Gulf to the south with Iran in-between and other trouble spots; Azerbaijan, Georgia, Chechnya, 1999 footage of Muddy Russian soldiers, common graves, shelled houses, like a preview of coming attractions, when our minds want glory, to be always in the right, sun glinting forever on gold, trumpets made for Hollywood sound, when itís the grim reaper who walks across the Mediterranean [see " Peace update, " Feb. 28 ó or, well, any number of the anti-war stories that have run here in the Phoenix].
Iraq, Iran, the map might be a board game. How many countries do we want? Itís our hunger, objectives, desire to stamp freedom on people who want only religious enslavement . . . because we are Americans and live with civil rights, commercial rights (ownership & entrepreneurial-ship), separation of church and state, privacy, accountability of government, and, in case of destitution, a vast array of social service agencies to help us out.
So why donít the Caspian Sea countries want to be like us? Because they have scores to settle and soon weíll be at the top of their hit list. And many reach adulthood damaged. Only the very upper-class have an AmericanĖstyle education, with choices to succeed or fail, pauper or company king, long happy summers, lakes to swim in, national parks, mountains . . . American kids have it all and as adults we give the most, too. So what are we doing now and howís our country going to survive as humanitarian to the world if we go on a killing spree in Iraq? Where everyoneís a beaten child.