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December 17, 2010

BehindTheMedspeak: "It's like using Amazon to buy your lab tests"


Long story by Jim Kavanagh on CNNHealth.com short: Dr. Doug Lefton, a family physician in Fairlawn, Ohio, finally had enough of his uninsured patients being unable to get necessary lab tests because they couldn't afford them.

"Working with the Summit County Medical Society, Lefton struck a deal with LabCorp, one of the largest testing companies in the country, and PrePaidLab. The arrangement allows patients to get lab tests done for a small fraction of the normal cost, simply by ordering them through the medical society's website."

"For example, a lipid panel (cholesterol test) in Lefton's area can cost as much as $148 for an uninsured person. The same test is available for less than $18 through the site."

"Here's how it works: Patients needing lab work can go to the medical society's website and click on the big yellow box in the middle of the page. From there they choose the tests their doctor says they need, give the doctor's fax number, pay with a credit card and print out the order. They then take the order to any LabCorp location in 47 states and have the work done. Results are sent securely to the patient and the doctor, often within 24 hours."

"'It's like using Amazon.com to buy your lab tests,' Lefton said."

[via Ray Earhart]

December 17, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"Fantastic" Ice Scraper


That's its actual name (above).

Here are three rave reviews, from the latest edition of Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools, edited by Oliver Hulland.


I bought the one I have now in 1982 at a gas station in Wisconsin. It's such a superior scraper that I've been careful to make sure it transferred from disposed-of vehicle to replacement vehicle four times since then. The thin, stiff, but mildly conforming brass blade slides easily between ice and glass and does so without scratching because brass is softer than glass. Oh, yeah, it still costs $2. Important: don't use it to hack at the ice because you may deform the brass blade, after which it won't slide between ice and glass well at all.

— Jeff Morrow

Brass blade is the real deal. I've given these to friends and family because they are so much better than the crappy plastic ones. Brass is soft enough to not damage the glass. The blade is thin and not really sharp to the touch, but is great on ice. The plastic scrapers get dull pretty quickly and then just skip over really tough ice.

— Scott Christensen

Had one of these for years and it was the best I have ever used. You just have to be careful about hitting the rubber gasket with it — it will cut. That is the reason the blade is not as wide as the blade holder.

— Jim Sheafer


Cheap, too.

Get one for a friend.



December 17, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Hard to Kill: Houseplants for the Inept


That's the headline above Michael Tortorello's November 10, 2010 New York Times article.

Right about now is when a lot of people's houseplants are looking a little wan so I figured it was the good time to feature this item.

Wrote Tortorello, "When I learned that I would be moving last August, for the first time in 11 years, I took stock of the survivors. What did I find on the radiator cover? A pair of umbrella plants that counted a dozen leaves between them. A ficus with something like psoriasis and another with a stoop. I felt pity, and I felt shame."

"A month after moving into my new home, I phoned three experts [Uli Lorimer, Mike Rimland and Mark Hoover] to ask what new houseplants I should draw close to my bosom and adopt as my own. They suggested plants for shady windows and plants for dry winters. They shared their best tips and their favorite catalogs. They prophesied plants that cannot be killed. Their greatest hits are below — with a star next to the indestructible plants."


★ CAST-IRON PLANT (ASPIDISTRA ELATIOR) Like vending machines and cosplay, Mr. Lorimer said, the aspidistra [below]


is big in Japan. Maybe it’s the ground-level flowers that bear an unlikely eight petals — the botanical equivalent of a two-headed goat at the state fair. Or perhaps it’s the plant’s indifference to light and water. Ultimately, Mr. Lorimer said, you can treat this plant like a piece of furniture. That is to say, remember to dust its foot-long leaves every once in a while.

★ SAGO PALM (CYCAS REVOLUTA) "You could drive a truck over it [top], and you couldn’t kill it," Mr. Rimland said. Do we hear a challenge?

★ STRAWBERRY BEGONIA (SAXIFRAGA STOLONIFERA) The botanical name sounds like a Mary Poppins tongue-twister, and the "round, grayish, scalloped" leaves [below]


are nothing special, Mr. Hoover said. He came to appreciate the survival instinct of this tiny plant when he noticed it sending out runners at the nursery — on the cold floor, beneath a table, with no obvious water or light.




December 17, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"Split Pea" — World's smallest lighter?

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Here's a review from the latest edition of Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools, edited by Oliver Hulland.



My Cool Tool gift this year is the "Split Pea" Lighter from County Comm. It's the "world's smallest lighter," a stainless steel tube 1.3"-high and 0.5" in diameter. Unscrew the top, flick the flint wheel, and behold! Fire!

Now I don't smoke, and rarely do I need to start fires here in Brooklyn. But the Split Pea appeals to my inner gearhead. It's ridiculously small, well-machined, and functions well. It's sealed so that you can carry it in your bag, Everyday Carry kit, purse, etc. without worrying about fuel spills or spontaneous combustion. Plus, you never know when you might need fire, right?

I've carried a number of fire-starters in my EDC kit, and the Split Pea is the one I've settled on for durability, weight and size. I wouldn't want to light 20 cigarettes a day with it — it's almost too small — but for occasional or emergency use it's perfect.

It's a great gift because it's useful, fairly cheap ($11.50), and universal in appeal. If you're giving it to someone in person, it's a good idea to fuel it up with liquid lighter fluid (from the hardware store) first, so they can try it out right away. (It's probably a bad idea to send a fueled-up lighter through the mails, although apparently you can take it with you through TSA security as a carry-on item.)

Even people who don't carry lighters will like the Split Pea.




December 17, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Google Body Browser is G-Rated


No end of fun from Mountain View.


An article on USATODAY.com calls it


"Google Earth for the human body."

[via Ray Earhart]

December 17, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

bookofjoe World Exclusive: San Andreas Coffee Table — Ricardo Garza Marcos





The Monterrey, Mexico-based designer and architect wrote,


"It's made of oak and inspired by the tectonic fault


that lies between


the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate."


You can find it here.

December 17, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Read my palms: no new taxes


Above, a picture accompanying yesterday's USA Today story about the 11th-hour tax deal currently going down in Washington.

Much more interesting to me than the tax issue would be a reading of Obama's palms by someone schooled in the arcane art.





December 17, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Electronic Synthesizer T-Shirt

Can your T-shirt do that?

Didn't think so.


From the website:



Real playable music synthesizer on your shirt with five different pro-quality sampled instruments.


With eight-voice polyphony, high-quality sampled sounds and stylish wearable retro amp box, you'll be jamming like Thomas Dolby and Kraftwerk in no time.


Requires 4 AA batteries (not included).




December 17, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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