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Ask Dr. Notebook

1 minute read
Harriet Barovick, Val Castronovo, Mitchell Frank, Tam Gray, Desa Philadelphia, Julie Rawe, Hope Reeves, Chris Taylor and Owen Thomas

Q. Why is the new e-mail computer virus called the Bubbleboy virus? That’s a weird name.

A. You know how geeks like to quote movies, thinking that cultural references make them cool? Well, who do you think makes e-mail viruses? This reference is to the Seinfeld episode where the gang meets a sick young man who has to live in a bubble. The corrupted e-mail registers the recipient in his or her Outlook Express program as “Bubbleboy” of “Vandelay Industries” (a reference to one of George Costanza’s fictional workplaces). Melissa, an earlier e-mail virus, makes a similarly hip reference to the Simpsons when opened, but the name itself supposedly came from a stripper in Florida, where the accused author of the program once lived. No one has yet found Melissa herself, though many have looked.

Q. Even though they are labeled for onetime use, biopsy needles, catheters, angioplasty balloons (right), scissors and other medical supplies are often sterilized and reused by hospitals. The government is considering regulating the companies that reprocess these devices. But if experts are not particularly alarmed, why is everyone so upset by this news?

A. Because it’s really, really gross.

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