Friday, June 29, 2007

Hospital Stats part2

The New York Times ran an editorial Tuesday agreeing with my underwhelming appraisal of the recently released hospital quality statistics where almost every hospital in the country got the same grade.

If you have a New York Times i.d. (free to create) you can read the criticism here.

"Famed medical institutions like Johns Hopkins, the Cleveland Clinic and Massachusetts General Hospital are lumped into the broad national average category when perhaps they deserve better (we can’t tell), and no doubt many other hospitals deserve a lesser ranking."

Sodium Acetate

Wow...check this out. If you're ever needing a science show-and-tell experiment I'd consider this.

Make Instant HOT ICE ! - video powered by Metacafe

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Earth at Night

See these stunning NASA images of the earth a night. Click on areas of the map to zoom in. The first link provided has some extremely high resolution images if you want to try them.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hospital Stats

I was reading this article in the NYTimes about hospitals countrywide being rated based on heart treatment success. I thought "That's a good thing. I wonder which are the best hospitals near my home?" and decided to check...

That's when the disappointment began. Now there's probably a lot more to this study, including some statistics on type of treatments offered with some supposed to be better than others, but I was left wondering "Where's the beef?" Here's one result of my search (click to enlarge):

For Heart Attach Survival Rates it turns out that of the 4477 hospitals in the study countrywide, there were only 17 identified as being above average, and only 7 identified as below average. Yep - leaving 4453 hospitals rated as "no different than the US National Rate". I found this tremendously useful (not), especially since in my state (TN) all 116 hospitals are presumably equally effective at heart attack mortality.

You can go to to find how hospitals around you rank, but on the mortality stats at least, it's not particularly enlightening unless the good stuff is buried somewhere else that's hard for average-joe consumer to find.

(The reason seems to be requiring a 95% statistical degree of certainty to rank a hospital above or below average, but I'm guessing there was a lot of "politiking" preventing the site from showing data that might give us the data segregated a bit more, even if a lower confidence level needed to be used.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Housing Valuations

I found this article interesting - in particular the map showing housing overvaluation concentrated along the east and west coast, with prices in the interior of the country more reasonable.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Near Death Experiences

I've been reading a lot over at, a website set up for folks to share and study near death experiences.

I've always found this kind of stuff fascinating, and the internet seems to be a great way for people to get their story out without having to worry about being misunderstood. Many of the people who post on the site say they've only told their very closest friends/family in confidence as they're afraid of being labeled "crazy". Certainly some of the accounts may be false, but I find it probable that a high percentage of the accounts are truthfully told. Taken with a grain of salt some clear themes do emerge though. The cause of these experiences is open to debate - (are they real experiences, triggered by oxygen starved brain, anesthesia, etc), but what I find interesting is an intriguing common thread that runs through so many of them.

Anyhow, I've been reading ALOT of these accounts - I've read over 150 or so accounts so far. Some commonalities I see:
- the experience is generally described as far more real than normal life. Most say comparatively life is far less real than the experience. (playing piano with mittens on)
- often begin with out-of-body experience - floating over their lifeless body but confused, not recognizing what's going on at first. some are actually shocked to realize they're looking at their lifeless body on the ground.
- there's usually an odd objective detachment to the physical body.
- being pulled into a tunnel or void and approaching a bright light. Depending on the experience the light tends to represent religious figures (often angels, Jesus, God), family members, or sometimes just a more abstract "idea" of God.
- a feeling of deep unconditional and accepting love by "the light." In general the experience is highly emotional. Most of the experiences are positive, but a small number have more frightening aspects.
- life review. Most who have a life review say the judgment comes from themselves and they have to learn to forgive themselves. The theme here is that we are our own harshest critics.
- a strong sense of one-ness with the universe accompanied by a connectedness with knowledge of all, that they suddenly just intuitively understand how everything works. Most say there aren't words to adequately describe what's going on. (Analogy: Conceptually it sounds like physical life is described as a computer without an internet connection, and the near death experience is suddenly like having access links to all computers and information in the world available for recall.) One described it as like being in a gigantic warehouse with a flashlight, stumbling around, and then for a few moments the lights are turned on and suddenly the layout and structure all makes sense. Even when you go back to just having a flashlight you understand better how it's all put together, how the aisles are aligned...
- general consensus is that we are here on earth to learn lessons. The vast majority of accounts see earth as a "school" for spirits - a place where they are distanced from the "one" to learn and improve themselves - that physical life exists to further the spirit.
- the theme of interconnectedness of everything permeates so many of these accounts. The assertion that what we do to others is like we also do to ourselves - as we are all part of the same "one". I'm reminded of the verse "Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me."
- sense of extra dimensionality, non-existence of time, all events past, current, and future existing concurrently. There are many accounts describing what is similar to a quantum nature of reality - that all options are available until we choose a course of action.
- most are given the option of whether to return and "finish" their lesson on earth, and often have to be convinced to return. A phrase repeated in many of the accounts is that they are told "it is not your time." Many say at the time they understood fully why they had to return, but once back in their body they can't remember why they were persuaded.
- a surprising number of those that return say they regret the decision.

For an example, here's an account from a motorcycle accident I recently read that has many of the elements,

and here's a link to what the site considers some of the more "exceptional accounts"

Anyhow, I can't seem to get enough of reading these accounts. I think it's the themes that emerge that make them so interesting. After reading a lot of these it's almost like you know what's coming next... Kindof like he's out of his body but doesn't know it, here comes the the tunnel, and the light, extreme feelings of love and one-ness, sense of universal knowledge, they're going to have to talk him into going back, etc... But at the same time it's the commonalities of so many accounts that seem to give an extra level of weight to the overall themes.

This post has run on long enough, but I feel like these are worth reading.

Rental Wedding Cake

I'd never heard of this (not that I read about wedding planning much anyhow), but just read about rental wedding cakes over on the Marginal Revolution Blog.

Apparently to save cash on weddings you can rent a fancy faux decorative cake (normal real cake price in the hundreds of dollars) which can then be hauled off to a serving room and then serve regular pan cooked cake. Your guests will be none the wiser and you can start an IRA instead.

From the website
"A beautiful cake is always a part of the dream wedding, but can be cost prohibitive. Instead, brides can rent an elegant display cake for their cake table, and have their caterer serve a delicious (and less expensive) sheet cake."

"Your "dream" cake contains a portion of actual cake so you can still make your "first cut". "

Saturday, June 16, 2007


This video cracked me up. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Patents gone haywire

I posted on intellectual property rights perhaps being too strong a short while back. I just saw a related story today.

Now I don't know squat about this and don't want to investigate the technicalities, but apparently a "buy it now" button on ebay is under dispute in a patent lawsuit. My question: Why on earth should anybody be able to patent a "buy it now" button and why should this be in the court system? How many highly trained and expensive lawyers are wasting their lives on the "buy-it-now button" case that has been in courts for years?

Why is it?

Why is it that we go bald on the top of our head instead of on our face? I mean - as we age why do we keep the facial whiskers that we shave off everyday, but lose the hair on our head that we'd rather keep?

Hypothetically, if we actually did go bald on our face, would we see a huge market of people paying big bucks for beard transplants so they'd look younger? Would Sy Sperling's Hair Club instead be a beard club?

And would we all shave our head daily like Telly Savalas before we went to work? Would only the outdoorsy types like Grizzly Adams have top-of-the-head hair?

And do you ever wonder what a comb-over beard might look like?

It's really not worth thinking about, but can you really not wonder what it'd be like?

(Believe it or not I just googled "comb over beard" and this Super Bowl commercial showed up.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Not a Joyride

True story of the day:

"A 21-year-old man got the ride of a lifetime when his electric wheelchair became lodged in the grille of a semitrailer and was pushed down a highway for several miles at about 50 mph."

This post is brought to you by a friend of mine.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Here's an interesting response from the Smithsonian to a "unique" contributor to the collection.

And bookmark this innovative site for when you just can't find a sheet of paper.

And here's one more for when you're feeling a little punchy.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Earning less than Dad

Adjusted for inflation, "American men in their 30s are earning less than their father's generation did, challenging a long-held belief that each generation will be better off than the one that preceded it..."

Read the full article at

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Life at it's rawest

This 8 minute video has it all. When you think you've won - perhaps not. When you think all is lost - perhaps not. Fight scenes, plot twists. You'll laugh, you'll cry. Without any pretense, this is life at its rawest. Wow!

Stock update

Short post: I added to my Cognizant Technologies (CTSH) position today.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Plugging Kiva again

All, I've posted previously in support of micro-financing and Kiva. Per the site: "Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world." (Here's more on how it works)

As was looking through the site I came upon a startling figure showing how difficult it must be to grow a business in the developing world. In the countries where Kiva disperses its loans the average annual local money lender rate is 76%! For the organizations that Kiva sponsors that average annual rate is lowered to 14%.

Could you imagine going to the bank and trying to get a loan at 76%? I doubt there would be much - if any - business expansion if every entrepreneur faced lending rates that high. It is a major hurdle to economic opportunity.

If you haven't already, I encourage you to check out Kiva and consider giving an interest free loan that can make a significant difference. And here's the other thing - hopefully when the loan is repaid you can loan it out again - it's sustainable.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

How to get to work late - 20 step program

How to get to work late in 20 steps (give or take)

- There's no need to iron your shirt and pants the night before, because you can just iron them in the morning. You'll have time...

- When the alarm goes off, just lie there in bed for another 15 minutes. You can always speed things up and still get to work on time.

- As a procrastinator you've probably already set your clock 15 minutes fast in anticipation of oversleeping anyway, so in all truthfulness it's a wash.

- As you're still lying there in bed you convince yourself it's no problem to take a 3 minute shower. And who really needs to dry off anyway? Just throw those clothes on and right off to work you go.

- Revision - since you haven't ironed your clothes yet you can drip dry while you're ironing. Multitasking - that'll save you even more time!

- And if you're really on your game you can triple-task and brush your teeth at the same time.

- yeah, your hair does look kindof funny the way it dried. The "Flock-of-Seagulls-look" went out in the 80s. Let's rewet the hair and try that again.

- oh yeah, you better shave too - but I warn you to not multitask there. Trying to brush your teeth while shaving is not a good idea. One false move in the morning stupor and you'll be putting toothpaste on your razor and shaving your teeth.

- where did you put that new tube of deoderant?

- "Honey, does this shirt match these pants?" In most cases the answer is "No" so you'll need to iron another shirt or pair of pants.

- What do you mean I slobbered toothpaste all over my shirt? How could that have happened?

- I wish that nick on my chin would stop bleeding.

- If you're lucky you can wear your emergency "no-ironing-needed" clothes that you save for times like these. Unfortunately you already had to wear those yesterday.

- Regarding Traffic: Be optimistic. The rain is probably just a slight drizzle. And there can't be wrecks every single day that it rains. Assume that today your commute will go off without a hitch...

- As you're stuck behind the schoolbus you wonder "Can't these kids move any faster?" and "Why do these little punks need to go to school at the same time I'm going to work anyhow?" Kids really should have to be at school by at least 6:00am to get them out of the way of those of us working and actually paying taxes! It's all about respect. I mean at least let me pass the schoolbus while the herd is mozying their way onboard.

- And what's up with those 15mph school zone speed limits? Stop coddling these pansies. The sooner they're exposed to the real world the better! They're young and have great reflexes - they all play these twitchy video games - so they're more than prepared for real life Frogger. Surely too many wouldn't get hit. Half of 'em are probably going to end up in jail anyhow, do we really need to be that careful?

- You finally get out from behind the bus. Now why is that ambulance coming just as your light is turning green? Now you're going to have to sit there in the rain another 2 minutes.

- I sure hope everyone else at work is stuck in traffic too. That at least gives me an excuse.

- Am I already out of gas? I might as well run in and get some coffee and a donut too.

- Why can't they get these traffic lights synced up?

- Are they ever going to get this road construction finished? I don't think I've seen anybody working on it in months.

- Finally almost made it to work. And why do I always have to park out in deep center-field? Since it's an emergency I would park in the up-close visitors parking, but it's already full. The visitors should have to park way out there - not me. As a hard working employee I should get the primo up-front spots! Heck after what I've been through they oughta be glad I'm even here at all.

- Where is my umbrella?

- With all this stress I'm going to have to knock off early this afternoon to recouperate.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Flying into Chicago

As I was flying into Chicago Wednesday morning the pilot took us out over lake Michigan and looped the city prior to going in to land at O'Hare airport. I was in a window seat on the side of the plane nearest to the city as we banked and did a big long turn.

I've always liked how things look when you're up in a plane, but I really enjoyed the circling the city. I wish I had a camara with me. I found this photo on the web though that is similar to the view, although I think we were at a tad lower altitude as we circled. The view reminded me of the video game Sim City too.

Also on the way up I noticed that most of Illinois is "brown" right now. It's all farmland and though the crops have been planted in the fields, there's not enough green sprouting up yet to stop me from just seeing the dirt.

Housing Stats

Here's a link to some housing stats.

In the first graph look at all the Adj.Rate Mortgages yet to reset to their new rates - we're not yet to the peak... In the second graph: the time to completion of a sale of residential property (6mo) is at it's highest level since 1994... Unsold inventory has doubled in a little over 3 years... and nationwide home prices are declining.

If I was shopping for a house (not that I am, but thinking out loud) I'd be thinking there might be some steals a couple years out.