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March 1, 2007

GasBGon — 'Clear the air, not the room'


Catchy slogan, what?

From the website:


    The GasBGon flatulence filter seat cushion is a fun, yet serious solution to the embarrassing problem of malodorous gas (breaking wind).

    GasBGon seat cushions apply cutting edge carbon filter technology to absorb the sound and odor that accompany flatulence. The unique cushioning property combines to form a dual filter technology to muffle the sound and the smell.

    Truth is, everyone has flatulence and passes gas an average of 14 times a day. Granted, some people are more frequent and odiferous than others. Research indicates that the GasBGon cushion actually absorbs more than 90% of the odor emitted for most end users. This is the result of a carbon filter that has the equivalent surface area of a football field.


    The product was conceived and developed by Jim and Sharron Huza. Jim is an air quality and filtration engineer with more than 25 years of experience in the pulp and paper industry while Sharron is a nursing student and experienced sales and marketing professional.

    GasBGon cushions have washable covers, removable cushioning properties to dampen sound, and a replaceable activated carbon material to absorb odors. This carbon material is specially formulated to allow for heavy absorption — our studies show its properties are effective on average six months for women and three months for men.


15 "designer styles" (three of which are pictured above and below) are available.


$21.95-$24.95, depending on style.

[via origamifreak]

March 1, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Spicesoflife.com — Nina Simonds Videoblog goes live


It began as a project for radio but, like the Apple computer, which Steve Wozniak memorably called "a science project that got out of control" (or something similar, the wording may not be exactly right — the Woz has weighed in before here to correct me so perhaps he'll descend from Olympus once more to touch me with his fairy dust — but I digress) morphed into something entirely different — and unexpected.

Yesterday's Washington Post reported, "What began as a radio project has turned into a video-blogging platform for cookbook author Nina Simonds. She plans to report from restaurants, interview chefs and cover food, health and lifestyle as an integrated force. The first episodes launched this month. 'It's sort of refreshing to do this every day and not have to write it all down,' Simonds told us by phone last week from her home in Salem, Mass. Her knowledge of Asian cuisine and special interest in healthful eating enrich the footage, which is shot with a Nokia telephone."

Hey — I've got a Nokia telephone: maybe I should try this.

Nah — I can barely make a phone call with it: trying to make a movie and then transferring it to bookofjoe is way, Way, WAY above my TechnoDolt™ pay grade.

But a man can dream....

On another note, Ms. Simonds' website should become instantly profitable if whoever's running it knows how to use it as an advertising platform.

She has huge street cred which, in this day and age, conquers all.

Apologies to Chaucer.

March 1, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

PeoplePaparazzi.com — Money for nothing, pix [not] for free


Who knew that if you happen to be in the right place at the right time with your cellphone (and you know how to take a picture with it — TechnoDolts™ need not apply) you can make serious money?

Not moi — until I happened on PeoplePaparazzi.com, which pays major megabucks for pixels.

Tell them joe sent you for a extra-special greeting and red carpet treatment.


As if.

[via Marie Puente and the February 28, 2007 USA Today]

March 1, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Car Sun Visor TV/DVD Player


Wait'll the folks at Engadget and Gizmodo see this puppy — how do you spell "freak out?"

But I digress.

From the website:

    Car Sun Visor Theater TV/DVD Player

    Discover a world of entertainment never before imaginable.

    Uncover your inner entertainer while safely driving behind the wheel of your favorite vehicle.

    Be the carpool envy of all of your friends with the Sun Visor Theater.

    The stunning clarity of the large 7" LCD screen will have your passengers glued to the tube whether you are chauffeuring your children around or carpooling to the office.

    With a 16:9 movie theater aspect ratio, your favorite films will have you wishing that the next movie you see in a theater will have seats as comfortable as your dream car!

    Certainly, the brilliant 7" LCD screen will keep your passenger seat filled all the time, but the Sun Visor Theater also features an in-visor DVD/CD player.

    You will be able to play any of the following formatted discs: DVD, VCD, CD, MP3, CD-R, CD-RW.

    On top of that, there is also an SD card reader and even a USB port to plug in your computer.

    But that's not even where the features end!

    The Sun Visor Theater comes with a built-in TV tuner/receiver).

    This means that your and your carpool buddies can still catch your favorite morning news show on the way to work.

    The Sun Visor Theater comes ready to install into your favorite vehicle.

    Be ready to transport your family through a whole new world or entertainment on your next trip to the family get-together.

    Your Sun Visor Theater comes with cables for power, USB, and antenna connections.

    There is even a remote control to manage playback or use the touch screen feature of the LCD.

    The only thing missing is your favorite movie list.

    There will be a line of friends and family members waiting to drive with you on the next road trip.

    You might just need to start charging admission to the most comfortable movie theater on the interstate.

    Purchase today and start enjoying a more fun-filled and action-packed drive with your friends.

    Drive responsibly: the Sun Visor Theater is designed for passenger viewing only.

    But they can always tell you about what's going on.


In Ivory (top) or Black.



March 1, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Ghost Sign: Chicago, Illinois — circa?


Ghost signs are those painted on the sides of buildings, only to be obscured by subsequent construction.

They are revealed only after demolition of the adjacent building.

Above and below,


an example from Chicago, Illiinois, submitted for our enjoyment by my intrepid Chicago/Costa Rica correspondent, Nicole Donohoe, who added, "Credit where credit is due — photo by Joe Oliver, forwarded to me by Nancy & Tom Melvin."

March 1, 2007 at 11:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

His Spine Curved Just Enough — by Thomas Lux

His spine curved just enough
to suggest a youth spent amidst a boring
landscape: brokedown corncrib, abandoned sty,
skeletal manure shed, a two-silo barn with one
sold off leaving a round pit
filled with rubble — where once the sweet silage
piled up and up now the brooding
ground of toads. And then the barn
began to buckle like an ancient mule falling
first to one knee, then both,
rear haunches still bravely, barely aloft.
Whatever hay left huddling in corners
more fossil than vegetable.
This landscape exists — in many
places — and is almost lovely,
even in, even in spite of, its decay.
It endures in histories and in fiction: the crabapple, the gray
pastures, the dried dung
how many years old? — and atop the barn
a weather vane knocked askew by a rifle shot,
pointing straight up, as if all the winds
were going to heaven.

March 1, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: How much is that procedure in the window?


Guess what?

Nobody knows.

That's the gist of a superb article by Michael Mason in the February 27, 2007 New York Times Science section.

Long story short: Prices for medical procedures are among the most closely-held secrets in the insurance business. What you pay has no relationship to what someone else pays for the very same procedure, performed by the very same doctor at the very same facility.

For example, a cornea transplant at the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia will set you back $15,000 if you pay out of pocket, while insurance companies will pay about $4,700.

Here's the story.

    Bargaining Down That CT Scan Is Suddenly Possible

    Patrick Fontana twisted his left knee last spring while hitting a drive down the fairway on a golf course in Columbus, Ohio. But what really pained him was the $900 bill for diagnostic imaging ordered by his doctor.

    Mr. Fontana, a 42-year-old salesman, has a high-deductible health plan coupled to a health savings account. Since he was nowhere near meeting his deductible, he was on the hook for the entire bill.

    So he did something that insurance companies routinely do: he forwarded the bill to a claims adjuster, in this case My Medical Control, a Web-based company that reviews doctor and hospital bills for consumers.

    After concluding that Mr. Fontana was not getting the best possible price, the company’s representatives called the imaging facility and demanded a lower one, promptly saving him $200 — minus a 35 percent collection fee.

    “I asked before I went in to the clinic how much it would cost, and they just will not tell you,” he said later. “I didn’t know until I got the bill, and at that point I figured I had nothing to lose.”

    The savings are possible for one reason: medical care is often priced with the same maddening, arbitrary opacity as airline seats and hotel rooms.

    “The average provider — doctors or hospitals — has between 5 and 100 reimbursement rates for the exact same procedure,” said Timothy Cahill, president of My Medical Control (mymedicalcontrol.com). “A hospital chain with multiple locations may have 150 rates for the same procedure. Consumers don’t know this.”

    The varying reimbursement schedules, negotiated between the nation’s 850,000 providers and more than 6,000 health plans, have been kept all but secret. Consumers almost never get information on prices before treatment. Even insurers do not know what other health plans are paying.

    Despite the complexity, the Internet has begun to open a window on this surreal world, allowing consumers to compare costs and, occasionally, to discover affordable alternatives.

    And not a moment too soon.

    Over the next decade, health care spending in the United States will double, to more than $4 trillion a year, a fifth of the gross domestic product, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

    Much of the increase will be paid directly by patients. Driven by skyrocketing hospital fees, overall out-of-pocket expenses for consumers will rise more than 5 percent every year, the federal researchers said.

    Already, more than 12 percent of working-age adults have out-of-pocket medical costs greater than 5 percent of their annual household income, according to the Center for Studying Health System Change, a research group in Washington.

    “Traditionally, when you went to the doctor, price was never mentioned,” said Paul B. Ginsburg, president of the center. “That’s changing, and I think it’s a healthy change.”

    Rudimentary information is increasingly available to consumers. Thirty-two states now require that hospitals provide pricing information to the public. Just this month, the Georgia Hospital Association started a Web site listing fees of common medical procedures at each of the state’s 141 acute-care hospitals.

    Some critics say these moves toward pricing “transparency” are largely symbolic, an effort to divert attention from the real causes of health care inflation by placing the onus on the consumer with vague talk of “empowerment” and “choice.”

    “It’s not consumer behavior that is driving rising medical costs in the U.S.,” said Robert G. Evans, a health care economist at the University of British Columbia. “It is the folks on the supply side, the doctors and hospitals.”

    Moreover, the available data are not always useful to consumers, because prices disclosed by hospitals are not the steeply discounted rates negotiated by insurers.

    “Consumers don’t care so much what the hospital charges,” said Carmela Coyle, senior vice present for policy at the American Hospital Association. “What they want to know how is much it’s going to cost them out of pocket.”

    While only the health plans know the actual numbers, a few Web sites recently have posted some surprising estimates.

    Extrapolating from federal Medicare data, Vimo (vimo.com), a small Web start-up in Mountain View, Calif., tries to estimate the fees negotiated by insurers for a variety of hospital procedures.

    While the price for a cornea transplant at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia is an estimated $15,000, for example, the reimbursement rate negotiated by insurers is likely to be closer to $4,700, according to the Web site.

    The reimbursement rate nationally is still lower: $3,900, by Vimo’s calculation. “We were shocked,” said Chini Krishnan, chief executive of Vimo. “We had no idea that the pricing inefficiencies could be so extreme.”

    This kind of comparison shopping can be deceiving, some experts warn, because consumers cannot judge the quality of care from fees alone, and different patients require different treatments.

    Still, even rough approximations can be useful, particularly for the increasing numbers of patients with high-deductible plans or no insurance at all.

    My Medical Control also provides a first glimpse of what free-flowing price data can do for patients after treatment. From a variety of public and private sources, Mr. Cahill said, the company has put together a database detailing the wholesale reimbursement rates paid by major insurers for thousands of procedures. In essence, My Medical Control claims to know the lowest rate that a hospital or clinic has already accepted for a given service.

    If a client is not being billed at that price, then the company’s representatives will call and bargain for it. From a typical claim of $1,100, Mr. Cahill said, the company shaves an average of $232 . “The higher your deductible, the less the health insurance company is providing oversight on your claim,” he said. “It’s not their money.”

    The market for services like Mr. Cahill’s is likely to grow, and fast. According to the federal researchers, out-of-pocket expenses for hospital patients will rise 9.1 percent this year alone.


In the next installment of BehindTheMedspeak I'll tell you a very effective — and little-known — way to reduce or eliminate your out-of-pocket anesthesia-related charges.

March 1, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kiss you, you're Irish


Wear these flashing shamrock earrings on St. Patrick's Day (March 17, in case you were wondering) and see what happens.

From the website:

    Flashing Shamrock Earrings

    Flashing and blinking with bright emerald spirit, our shamrock earrings make anyone feel Irish!

    French wire earrings include batteries and on/off switch.

    1-1/4"W x 1-5/8"H.



Turn on your love lights.



March 1, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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