« December 9, 2008 | Main | December 11, 2008 »

December 10, 2008

bookofjoe Careers: Embalmer


This new feature will feature interesting paths that may not at first glance — or even on subsequent glances — seem appealing but that, if allowed to, will grow on you if you're suited for such.

Today's inaugural choice highlights Alan Feuer's October 14, 2008 New York Times article.

    In the End, There Is a Drain

    The deceased — in life he was a doorman — was lying on a gurney in the basement. He was naked, as wrinkled as a rhino, and face up on a sheet.

    Around him in the clammy room were the tools of his embalmer: the trocar that had emptied out his stomach, the scalpel that had dug into his jugular, the Duotronic pump machine that had given him that vinegary odor from the fluid it had put into his veins.

    He had come to rest at last: here, at the inevitable endpoint, in a small embalming room in Harlem. A necessary place, no doubt, but one whose actuality, whose actual existence the human brain will often keep at bay.

    “No one wants to hear about embalming,” said the room’s owner, Isaiah Owens, proprietor of the Owens Funeral Home on Lenox Avenue and 121st Street.

    It is Mr. Owens’s belief that people talk only about the pretty things in death — the speeches or the flowers at the funeral — and that to merely say the word “embalming” is uncomfortable because “what it means is that the person’s really dead.”

    His embalming room is certainly uncomfortable: a starkly lighted chamber with a tangy iron odor, a silence one can feel, and the subterranean dankness of a crypt. A metal shower head hangs from the ceiling to wash away the occasional toxic spill. Two white marble tables, themselves as stiff as corpses, occupy the center of the floor.

    As Mr. Owens likes to say, the most important purchases in life are for your death — and embalming is critical among them. A “straight case,” as he calls it (on a body that was relatively healthy), will cost your survivors in the neighborhood of $400. Those involving hospitals (or medical examiners) will cost them slightly more.

    An ancient art, embalming was invented by the Incans and the Egyptians, both of whom, for reasons related to climate, favored making mummies of their dead. Europe came late to the game and had sporadic practice even through the middle 1600s. It is said that the Chinese of the Han Dynasty were experts in the art and that their bodies are perhaps the best preserved.

    Today’s embalmers spend two years in mortuary school, where they learn to draw the blood (from any of the body’s six main arteries) and to empty the stomach. As a general rule, 30 minutes is required to fill a corpse with arterial firming fluid, which also adds color to the body. Mr. Owens, a purist, often opts for Index 32 lithol from the Embalmers’ Supply Company.

    As the process was a mystery, he graciously explained it: First, he said, you scrub the skin, clean the nails, shampoo the hair and massage the limbs to break up rigor mortis. Then you sew the mouth shut and carefully pose the features, as a body will go stiff.

    Afterward, you begin to drain the blood and fill the veins with fluid. You remove all food and feces from the stomach and intestines. You aspirate the body with an air pump. It gives the cavities that healthy, rounded look.

    At the very end, he said, you wash the corpse again — and this time, check for holes.

    “It’s strange,” Mr. Owens mused the other day, “but no one knows how this is done. Everyone should know. It happens to everyone, all around us, every day.”

    By then he had returned to his office, where his secretary and accountant worked beside a coffin. It was open. Inside was a corpse.


Think this might be your calling?

Well then, you're in luck.

The Times kindly provided an interactive feature along with Feuer's story.

December 10, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Messed-up Flash Drive — Hide in plain sight


No one'll look twice at that piece of garbage.

They'll never know it's got the family jewels inside.

From the website:

    Hacked Flash Drive

    Imagine yourself sitting in a coffee shop.

    You pull out your venerable laptop and fire it up.

    You may not realize it, but there are jealous eyes on your hardware.

    They see your computer and size you up.

    Is the computer you carry worth trying to steal?

    Are you enough of a threat to them?

    The mental calculations proceed apace.

    That is, until you reach for your flash drive.

    You pull from your bag a seemingly torn and frayed piece of USB cabling.

    Immediately, your potential miscreant raises an eyebrow.

    Exactly what does he think he's going to do with that cable?

    Grinning like a madman, you plug your phantom USB device into your computer, and happily continue on with your work, apparently oblivious to your devices obvious lack of connectivity.

    It appears to all around you that you are, indeed, mad.

    In fact, what you’ve really done is plug in a 2 gigabyte flash drive that's masterfully disguised as a frayed and broken USB cable.

    You've managed to make it appear that you're insane, and as all thieves know — never, EVER, screw around with an insane person.


    • 2GB flash drive cleverly disguised as a frayed and broken USB cable

    • Easily transfer and store files, photos and music

    • USB 2.0 with 1.1 backwards compatibility

    • Mac, Windows and Linux compatible




December 10, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

joeTV: Closer — but still 'real soon now'

That's the short version of Jefferson Graham's story in today's USA Today about all the new live video streaming websites appearing like lemmings on a good sea day.

Here's the article.

    Live video takes off on sites like Justin.tv and Ustream.tv

    Looking for something fun to watch online? How about a live video view of Christmas tree lights or an amateur Italian band rehearsing in the basement as it's happening?

    If those offerings on Ustream.tv don't grab you, there's always the Florida sunset from contributor Don Browne's patio on Justin.tv, or tech blogger Robert Scoble's video test of a new Nokia phone, streamed from his cellphone in Barcelona.

    Online video used to mean prerecorded and edited clips on YouTube and other video-sharing sites. But as the year comes to a close, one of the fastest-growing trends is showcasing live video on websites such as Justin.tv, Ustream.tv and Mogulus and via cellphone at Qik and Kyte.

    "Live broadcasting was something only done by the rich news organizations," says Michael Seibel, CEO of San Francisco-based start-up Justin.tv. "So when you bring it to the masses, the public gets really excited."

    According to measurement service Quantcast, Justin.tv attracted 11 million visitors in November, compared with Ustream's 5.6 million and Mogulus' 2.1 million. That's a far cry from YouTube's 71 million, but the sites are seeing traffic nearly double. Justin.tv had just under 6 million visitors in October, and Ustream, 3 million.

    Both Justin and Ustream are geared toward consumers, while Mogulus (partially owned by Gannett, publisher of USA TODAY) targets consumers and businesses. About 7 million folks watched Ustream.tv's live webcasts of the Republican National Convention in September; nearly 100,000 tuned in to Mogulus' live streams on election night.

    "It's live, anything can happen, and the editorial filter has been lifted," says John Ham, co-founder of Ustream.

    For the Web-based live video sites, anybody who ever wanted to host a TV show can do it with an Internet-connected computer and a webcam.

    Much of the live streaming is targeted at niche audiences. But multiply a lot of mini-niches several times, and these companies could potentially end up with huge aggregate audiences, says Max Haot, CEO of Mogulus. "Everyone loves content that's relevant to them," he says.

    "High school meetings, political events, stuff that only a few thousand people would be interested in watching. Now they have access to it, with live streaming."

    Prominent tech blogger Scoble uses mobile services Kyte and Qik to stream live video from his iPhone — an experiment that shows just how early in the process the new mobile services are.

    The iPhone has a still camera, not a video camera. But software is available to "jailbreak" the iPhone to give it video capability. Doing so voids the warranty.

    "We all have video cameras on cellphones now that weren't there before, and people are starting to use them," Scoble says. Instead of just snapping a quick picture, "We can call our parents and say, 'Hey, watch my baby,' or 'I'm at the Louvre museum in Paris, watch me,' and that's cool."

    Sure, you could take a quick video and e-mail it when you return home. But this way, you place a quick call, connect your friends or loved ones to the live video link — and you're on the mobile Internet.

    The appeal of Qik is "sharing moments of what you're doing live with friends and family," says Qik co-founder Bhaskar Roy. "It's instant messaging with a video picture on the cellphone."

    Roy says Qik works with many different phones but not all. They tend to be the more expensive smartphone variety — think BlackBerrys and Windows Mobile phones. Roy says a majority of his 100,000 registered users opt for the iPhone or Nokia N95, a $595 phone that none of the major U.S. wireless carriers sells with subsidized contracts.

    According to market tracker ComScore Media Metrix, about 6.5 million people watched live mobile video in August. Besides amateur live video, that includes streaming video from mainstream sites such as MSNBC and CNN.

    But will any of these companies ever make money? Right now, profits are non-existent. Seibel says Justin.tv is "approaching" profitability, while Ustream's Ham says he's making money on advertising but is more concerned with growth.

    Qik, which recently laid off five employees among 50 in a belt-tightening move, will offer premium services next year in a bid to move toward profitability. Mogulus' $350 monthly "pro" version just went on sale last week — it can be tweaked to remove ads and branding.

    "Right now these sites remind me of where Net video was before YouTube," says Phil Leigh, an analyst at Inside Digital Media. "It's an application that will become really popular, and the survivors have a real opportunity to eventually make money."

    They can also make for controversy. Nasty headlines flew recently when a teenager committed suicide live on Justin.tv. The 19-year-old Floridian had said he would do it, and many bloggers, including NewTeeVee, suggest that he was egged on by viewers on message boards.

    Scoble says that's what happens when the camera is always running. "You're going to see lots of happy times, like the birth of babies, and nasty things, like murder and houses burning down from fires. You can't control that. It's the dark side of live video."

December 10, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tantrum Throwing Alarm Clock


That's different.

I can't speak for you but where I live, this is a single-use device.

The first wall impact is the deepest.

From the website:

    Tantrum Throwing Alarm Clock

    This alarm clock pounds its fists and opens its mouth while "shouting" its alarm.

    As your selected wake-up time approaches to within five minutes its feet and body will begin to glow and when the alarm sounds it begins tapping its arms lightly — but if you are dilatory in touching its snooze sensor by more than one minute, it launches into its full tantrum routine (turns off after an hour of unabated whining).

    It also dances to music played from its radio or your connected MP3 player by flashing its lights and swinging its arms.

    A sensor on its head also allows you to "pet" the clock, causing it to "smile" and tap its fists in appreciation.

    Its eyes will flash red when its four AA batteries (not included) get too low, or it can plug into AC.

    9-1/2"W x 7-1/2"D x 5"H.

    Ages 8 and up.




December 10, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Healthcare credit score — just another name for wallet biopsy


Certainly it's more politically correct but they're exactly the same thing.

First I'd ever heard of a healthcare credit score was when I read Sarah Rubenstein's eye-opening piece in today's Wall Street Journal.

Long story short: "Some patient advocates worry that credit data can be used by hospitals to deny or cut back treatment or to disqualify people from financial assistance.... The health credit score isn't used to deny or approve treatment, the company says."


And when the studies show the outcome is only marginally better for a neurosurgical procedure done on an emergency basis than simply watching and waiting to see if the patient dies, you know they'll be taking that individual right into surgery regardless of whether they're carrying first-class health insurance or on Medicaid.

Gimme a break.

Here's the WSJ article.

    Experian to Add Work For Hospitals

    Credit-reporting bureau Experian PLC said it agreed to acquire SearchAmerica Inc., a closely held company in the business of mining patients' financial data to help hospitals determine how likely patients are to pay their medical bills.

    With the $90 million purchase, Dublin-based Experian is getting heavily involved in health care at a time when hospitals are struggling to collect from both the uninsured and underinsured. Equifax Inc. and TransUnion LLC, credit-reporting bureaus based in the U.S., also offer services that help hospitals get a sense of patients' incomes and payment likelihood.

    "Hospitals are trying to become more sophisticated in managing their cash flow and their revenue cycle," said Kerry Williams, Experian's group president of credit services and decision analytics. "Health-care costs are rising and U.S. employers continue to put more and more of the payment of health care on to the employee."

    SearchAmerica, based in Maple Grove, Minn., uses financial data collected by credit bureaus to help hospitals determine whether patients registering for treatment will qualify for financial-assistance programs such as Medicaid or charity care. The company also generates a health-care credit score and helps hospitals figure out who has the means to pay and who should be pursued most actively for payment after patients receive care.

    Some patient advocates worry that credit data can be used by hospitals to deny or cut back treatment or to disqualify people from financial assistance. "I have found many hospitals making people jump through all sorts of hoops to try to get them knocked out of the financial-assistance category that they deserve to be in," said Alan Alop, deputy director of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.

    But SearchAmerica, which has 50 employees, says the purpose of its services is to efficiently qualify patients for financial assistance. The health credit score isn't used to deny or approve treatment, the company says.

    SearchAmerica's client base includes about 200 health systems, many of which own more than one hospital.




Here's Rubenstein's blog post about on the subject, just up at 10:09 a.m. today.

    Hospitals Tap Credit Bureaus to Gauge Patients’ Ability to Pay

    There’s new momentum behind hospitals’ efforts to predict how likely patients are to pay their medical bills.

    Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, has agreed to acquire SearchAmerica, a small company that’s in the business of mining patients’ financial data, the WSJ reports.

    SearchAmerica uses data collected by credit bureaus — from payment histories to credit limits — to gauge patients’ incomes and payment habits. As we explained earlier this year, SearchAmerica and others in the business says their goal is to help hospitals more efficiently assess patients for financial assistance, and to prioritize collections for patients who are most able to pay.

    “SearchAmerica’s software simply makes the process of getting folks into financial assistance programs more efficient and more accurate,” Dan Johnson, SearchAmerica’s CEO, told us. Equifax and TransUnion, the two other major credit bureaus, also offer services that help hospitals get financial profiles of patients.

    Experian says the data aren’t used to deny or approve care. But the area is controversial, as evidenced by a recent piece in BusinessWeek that shows patients in tough straits who had trouble getting help from hospitals with info about their finances.

    “I have found many hospitals making people jump through all sorts of hoops to try to get them knocked out of the financial-assistance category that they deserve to be in,” Alan Alop, deputy director of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, told the WSJ.


Looks like the WSJ is on the same page as me: witness the graphic (below)


it used to accompany the blog post above.

The only thing missing is the biopsy needle.

December 10, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Carabiner Camera


Wait a minute, I thought it was his bowtie — shows how out of it I am.

No matter.


From websites:

5MP Carabiner Camera


Cool things happen all the time but sometimes you only have a moment to capture them.

You won't miss the moment if you have a Carabiner Camera.


This water-resistant 5MP camera with a 1.5" LCD screen clips to your key ring, pack or belt loop, giving you immediate access.

And with a built-in flash and webcam/video streaming capability, you can shoot photos or video.


So, when you're out on your latest adventure and see an exotic animal or a breathtaking sunset view you won't waste time digging through your pack.

Includes rechargeable Li-Ion battery and USB cable for easy transfer to your computer.


Looking at the camera, it occurs to me that the manufacturer could offer a cut-rate version that uses the hole as the viewfinder, sans LCD screen.

I'm just saying.


Red: $59.13.

Blue: $52.88.

Green: $59.13.

December 10, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Random Paragraph Generator


For a minute there I thought Flautist was riffing.

My subjects were "technical ineptitude" and "music is too loud."

Generate your own.

December 10, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Yo-Yo Lamp


Designed by Almerich in Valencia, Spain.

Hanging and floor iterations.

"10-meter-long fabric-covered electric cable is rolled up between the two rotational-molded polymer diffusers, which remind us of the toy that names the lamp."


In the hanging version the amount of cable wound into the "spool" dictates the height at which the fitting hangs.

Metal parts are brass with steel finish.

From £1,000.


Apply within.

December 10, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

« December 9, 2008 | Main | December 11, 2008 »