Between The Lines

The stories behind this issue’s stories.

Homeland Security

The concept of offshoring was never one of those things that gave me much pause (“Into Thin Air,” page 76). It seemed like a natural next step in the process of globalization–one that will create more prosperity around the world and ultimately in America. And that may well be true . . . one day. But after talking to people like Debi Null, a liver-transplant recipient who now works three jobs in an effort to replace the income she lost after almost 25 years at Hewlett-Packard and Agilent, along with so many others, I had a change of heart.


“Short-term pain,” for those whose jobs simply disappear, lasts an awfully long time if you’re the one getting hurt. It cuts across age, ethnic, and geographic lines. It can lead to the abrupt end of a career and the end of whatever financial security you might have gained. Other than unemployment benefits (a short-term solution), there is no corporate or government-provided safety net for these folks, many of whom are falling through the cracks despite working hard in fields once thought to guarantee a stable and rewarding career. “It’s tough now because none of the malls are hiring,” says Andres Urv, who despite a year of looking, hasn’t been able to find anything comparable to his job as a software quality engineer. Sure, we’re more productive, but has anyone factored in the cost of wasting all that brainpower? -Jennifer Reingold

(Non)Standard Operating Procedure

It was the first time I’d taken off my clothes for a story (“Fantastic Voyage,” page 54).

In the small locker room at Children’s Hospital Boston, I doffed my shirt and pants and put on a fresh set of blue scrubs. In the hallway outside, I was handed a mask and cap. I trailed Dr. Joseph R. Madsen down the hall and into the operating room, where he prepared to implant a 6-year-old girl with a medical device made by Cyberonics, the Houston company I was writing about. After a few minutes, it struck me: I’d never been conscious in an operating room before. I’d only ever been anesthetized and flat on the table.

The photographer who accompanied me on the piece, Max Aguilera-Hellweg, was an old hand, having spent eight years photographing surgeries for a book called The Sacred Heart: An Atlas of the Body Seen Through Invasive Surgery. As a result, he decided to attend medical school and starts his residency this year. At the head of the operating table, Max efficiently set up his stepladder, which he uses to get a God’s-eye view of the proceedings.

The hour spent in the operating room was like watching a great ballet: How on earth do they do that? I marveled at how surgical talent and new technologies can mesh–when you ignore the hassles and high costs of our byzantine and overburdened health-care system. There is perhaps no better way to understand the human aspect of the medical-device industry than seeing a device taken from its package and implanted into a patient. -Scott Kirsner

Comic Relief

When Tom Stern invited me to a dinner party that he was throwing for some friends from his days on the comedy circuit–there was the hint of a Jerry Seinfeld or Jay Leno appearance–I jumped at the chance (“Drawing a Life,” page 88). Even if the big stars didn’t make it, I thought, wouldn’t it be great to hear some comedy pros cracking on one another poolside on a warm Los Angeles evening? Visions of Curb Your Enthusiasm danced in my head. As it turned out, being in a house full of comedians was less side-splitting than it was head-splitting. It was like being in some kind of smelly comedy locker room–all downtime and hard-nosed post-game analysis. But all was not lost. Stern surprised his guests by throwing on a lion costume and belting out some adapted version of a Wizard of Oz tune. You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief ripple across the patio: “Finally, something we can all ridicule.” -Ryan Underwood