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April 20, 2006

InsureUonline.org — 'Fight fake insurance'

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Insurance scams abound.

Now the insurance industry has decided to be pro–active with its new website.

On it are links to state insurance departments and their complaint databases.

Put in your prospective insurer before you write your check — you might be surprised by what you learn.

After the initial outrage will come a Cheshire cat smile, I assure you, should you get a hit.

M.P. McQueen interviewed Alessandro A. Iuppa, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), for a March 29 Wall Street Journal story.

McQueen wrote, "Fraudulent insurance is a growing problem, Mr. Iuppa said, particularly bogus health–insurance policies and cards for discounted medical care that are misleadingly marketed as health insurance."

The NAIC website also features information on home, automobile, and life insurance.

If you don't have access to a computer you can get the identical information by calling 866-470-6242.

According to McQueen, "InsureUonline.org gathers consumer insurance information in one place, much of it previously available on the NAIC Web site and on state insurance department Web sites, and organizes it according to certain demographics, for example, 'young singles,' 'young families,' established families' and 'empty nesters.'"

The website also offers a video and Spanish audio.

April 20, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Missing Link Hanging Clothespins

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What with all the excitement in the anthropology space lately over the discovery of what appears to be the long–sought "missing link" (below)

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between fish and land animals, it's easy to almost — and the operative word is "almost" — overlook the emergence, from the primordial skunk works–like brain of an anonymous inventor, of this formidable entry into the drip–dry space.

From the website:

    Drip Dry Hangers

    You'll find dozens of uses for these handy hangers: they'll hang hand– washables from shower head or rod, keep messages in view on a doorknob, hold recipes at eye–level on a cupboard handle and more!

    Great on the clothesline and at the beach.

    Plastic.

A matched set of 6 costs $2.79.

April 20, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Behind the scenes at Wikipedia

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J. R. Biersdorfer wrote in the March 30 New York Times about some very cool features of Wikipedia that most people don't use either because they don't care or don't know they exist — maybe both.

It's quite easy to find out who worked on what page, and when, by clicking on the "History" tab at the top of each article (above).

You can also compare previous versions of an article on the resulting historical archive page.

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I like this feature because one of the things I regret, when I go back into my archives here and correct something, is the loss of the original version.

April 20, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bakers With Tools Fashion Earrings

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Hand-crafted by artisan jeweler Lucy Golden in New Hampshire of sterling silver and brass.

Approximately 2" high.

$42.95.

April 20, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Back to the future: Hilaire Belloc on blogs — in the year 1918

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Verlyn Klinkenborg of the New York Times wrote this past Tuesday about Hilaire Belloc's 1918 book, "The Free Press."

Long story short: everything you need to know about blogs — their pluses and minuses — was put down in black and white 88 years ago by the great English writer (above), who in his lifetime published nearly 150 books.

Here's the superb "Editorial Observer" piece by Klinkenborg.

    The Future of Journalism as Told by Hilaire Belloc in 1918

    Every few days, I get an RSS feed that lists the new books added to the University of Pennsylvania Library's catalog of online books, and I go foraging.

    To me this is a long-distance version of the kind of trolling I have done most of my life, wandering through the library stacks, making accidental discoveries in the shelves along the way.

    But there is a paradox here.

    This is a high-tech library filled with old books.

    Because of copyright restrictions, it's rare to find a publication date much later than the mid-1920's.

    Nowhere else that I know of can you feel as clearly the difference between the protected waters of copyright and the open sea of the public domain.

    Most days, I just scan the titles.

    I have not yet plunged into the pages of "Stories of the Gorilla Country, Narrated for Young People" or "A Young Macedonian in the Army of Alexander the Great."

    But the other day, the new listing was "The Free Press," by Hilaire Belloc, published in 1918.

    Belloc, who died in 1953, is well represented online.

    Project Gutenberg has published 10 of his books, which seems like a lot until you consider how many books Belloc published in his lifetime — nearly 150.

    Belloc was wide of range, certain of opinion and unstinting in effort.

    He once summed up his philosophy of writing as follows: "The whole art is to write and write and write and then offer it for sale, just like butter."

    "The Free Press" is an extended essay examining the history of what Belloc calls the "Official Press" in England and the emergence of a rival "Free Press" in the form of small, often short-lived journals.

    The Official Press, Belloc argues, is centralized and Capitalist (he always capitalizes Capitalist), and its owners are "the true governing power in the political machinery of the State, superior to the officials in the State, nominating ministers and dismissing them, imposing policies, and, in general, usurping sovereignty — all this secretly and without responsibility."

    The result "is that the mass of Englishmen have ceased to obtain, or even to expect, information upon the way they are governed."

    It is a delicate historical task to transplant Belloc's argument from his era to our own.

    Perhaps nothing else distances his essay so much as his assumption that major newspapers actually shaped the political power of the nation — that politicians governed at the sufferance of newspaper owners.

    No newspaper, or TV network, of our own day can stand in for Lord Northcliffe's dominant suite of newspapers, including The Times of London, which embodied Belloc's notion of the Official Press.

    The balance of power has shifted, and many of the ideals implicit in the free or independent press, as Belloc describes it, have been absorbed by modern newspapers.

    There is also no shortage of the small, independent journals of opinion that Belloc was championing.

    But "The Free Press" is still worth reading, for it describes, with some important adjustments, the evolving relationship between political bloggers and the mainstream media.

    The free press that Belloc describes was a horde of small, highly opinionated, sometimes propagandistic papers that arose in reaction to "the official Press of Capitalism."

    What characterized the free press, Belloc wrote, was "disparate particularism."

    As he says, "the Free Press gives you the truth; but only in disjointed sections, for it is disparate and it is particularist." (For "particularism," Belloc offers the synonym "crankiness.")

    To get at the truth by reading the organs of the free press, you have to "add it all up and cancel out one exaggerated statement against another."

    But his point is that you can get at the truth.

    There are whole paragraphs in Belloc's essay where, if you substitute "blogs" for "the Free Press," you will be struck by the parallels.

    He notes that the journals of the free press seldom pay their way and that they often suffer from the impediment of "imperfect information," simply because it is not in the politicians' interests to speak to them.

    They tend to preach to the converted.

    And they are limited by the founder's vision.

    "It is difficult," Belloc writes, "to see how any of the papers I have named would long survive a loss of their present editorship."

    Belloc's point is not to expose the limitations of bloggers — excuse me, the Free Press.

    It is to show how, imperfect as they are, they can contribute enormously to our ability to learn what's going on.

    Anyone who spends much time reading political blogs will hear a familiar note — in far greater prose — among Belloc's certainties.

    He writes, in short, as a blogger of his own time.

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Full disclosure: I purchased Klinkenborg's new novel (below),

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"Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile" — but I have not yet read it.

Those who have have been enchanted.

April 20, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

World's Stupidest Tool?

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From the website:

    Gentleman's Multi–Wrench Tool with 8 Wrench Heads.

    Stupidest Idea Ever?

    The cam adjust lever in the center of this set of four double–ended wrenches allows the extension of a single wrench head for use, at which point the masochistic user may apply his hand to the sharp edges of the remaining wrenches and use them for "leverage".

    As wrenches go, this one is sublime in presentation and absolutely ridiculous as a working tool.

    A classic stupid idea and another great wrench.

Alas, sold for $85 (to my doppelganger, no doubt).

April 20, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'View your monogram online!'

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That's what it says in teeny, tiny letters in an April 10, 2006 New Yorker ad for John Christian, a company specializing in monogrammed jewelry.

I went to the company's website, ringbox.com, but was completely bewildered by its dreadful home page.

I had the crack research team investigate to see if they could unearth the monogram maker which, like the proverbial pony in Ronald Reagan's favorite story, I knew must be in there somewhere.

Took 'em a while but they found it.

Go here, then scroll down to where it says in red "New feature!" and "Click here."

I think I'll email John Christian with a million dollars worth of free advice — yes, I know you're shaking your head and saying they won't even be getting good value if I call it my two cents worth, but I don't have time to deal with negativity just now — to wit: put the words "Monogram Maker" up at the top of the home page with a direct link to the feature.

Sometimes people have something wonderful but simply don't know how to wrap their package.

That's what you pay me the big bucks for.

Me, I prefer the block style (top).

April 20, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

kake-kut'r™ Sheet Cake Cutter — 'Now the first piece out can be as perfect as the last'

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Everyone knows that no matter how hard you try and how careful you are the first piece out of a sheet cake gets messed up.

It's understood.

But Debbie Meyer refused to take that crum[b]my answer.

After years of creating prototypes in the skunk works back of her house she emerged triumphant, having conquered the thought-to-be-impregnable perfect-first-piece-out problem.

From her website:

    Ivoire d'Elegance™

    Subtle antique-style faux ivory handles lend an air of grace and elegance to any setting.

    Marvelous gift!!

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$9.99 (sheet cake not included).

[via the Washington Post]

April 20, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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