Friday, February 21, 2003

Last Call For Blogbash

Friday night in Kirkwood, MO, at Two Nice Guy's. Map here.

Fun with glands

Did you know you had a thymus?

Dr. Ed says "Salt, sugar, and sex: the deeper you go, the sweeter it gets". This is to help you remember the functions of the three zones of the adrenal cortex. Got that? It and more are available on Ed's Pathology Notes.

He also tells us "The normal adult weight of each adrenal gland is 4 gm...If an adrenal gland weighs 6 gm or more (without a tumor), it is usually hyperplastic. The stress of the final illness increases the weight of the adrenals, which is why "normal autopsy weight" is sometimes given at 6-8 gm. Most violent suicides have adrenals weighing 9-11 gm."

No doubt you spend hours each day contemplating your pineal gland. Wouldn't it be cool if you could use it to browse the web?

Thursday, February 20, 2003

It takes a stud... Mindles H. Dreck to write a post on two by fours.

Yellow Pages and other delights

Unless you're from Chicago or in specialized businesses you might well never have heard of Reuben H. Donnelley Corporation. But they've heard of you. Their history is pretty much that of the Yellow Pages phone directories.

Then when it came time to print the books, he could just call his old man Richard Robert Donnelley, the patriarch of R. R. Donnelley. RRD has been and may still be the world's largest printer, whether of telephone directories, magazines, books, advertising inserts and other media, and they do much more besides. They might have printed your phone book in Dwight, IL, or your hardcover book in Crawfordsville, IN, or your mass-market magazines in Mattoon, IL. Those and dozens of other plants supply outlets across the US and the rest of the world.

And I'm betting that you haven't heard of RRD, RHD, or any of the towns above. How debilitating.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Sanctimonious trial lawyers II

I was going to update the original here, but this rapidly became too long-winded (surprise). Mr. Weinstein replied here

First off, although I disagree with him on a number of things, let me note that my issue was with the self-congratulatory tone of Mr. Weinstein's blog. This of course is not personal, so it certainly doesn't justify the "No Watermelons Allowed doesn't like me much" intro. And to call a blog self-congratulatory is of course subjective and isn't exactly the most damning of accusations in any case.

And with constructs like "That might be true for him and some others" I deliberately left room for him to distance himself from the greedier end of his profession. Apparently he doesn't want the distance.

Apparently in response to my suggestion of a need for discipline, he did provide a link to the Tennessee Bar Association website. If you look around a little on the sidebar you'll find "Actions from the Board of Professional Responsibility" - apparently there's no direct link. At least one of them appeared to be a plaintiff's lawyer who was publicly censured for about the 4th time after letting some defendants off the hook without a fight (as I interpreted it - as I noted, I'm not a lawyer). He's still practicing. Hmm - why can't we plaster a big "Attorney General's Warning" on the creep so people can know that he might screw them over negligently or otherwise?

The old joke goes that if there's only one lawyer in town, he'll starve, but if there are two they'll both get rich. Lawyers are positioned to profit from conflicts - without strong, vigorously enforced ethics, they become the sowers of discord so wisely consigned by Dante to the lower circles of hell.

How can it be that insurance companies could be winning any sort of PR war? Some of the dirtiest money ever made has come from insurance. There's no question that insurance people are self-interested in trying to hold down the costs of medical care, malpractice judgments and others.

But the fact is that that insurors perform a vital function too. Arguably the ready availability of underwriting for various risks is one of the great advantages of our society, permitting people without wealth to leverage that of others to produce social goods. And it is this conditional access to the wealth of others that provides the payoffs for the plaintiff's bar - does Mr. Weinstein believe that juries and judges would permit large awards if they thought the money was coming directly out of their neighbors' pockets?

And just as we must discipline our children, someone has to say No, limiting the amount paid in claims, if only because it's the only way they can be sure they have the remaining capital needed to serve the claims of others. That would be an essential role even if no one ever filed fraudulent claims. Surely this role is entitled to generous compensation too.

And the task of the insurors is daunting and complex. Given that they employ thousands of human beings and deal with millions of customers, mistakes will be made. Unforeseen risks will arise, and the likelihood and severity of existing ones will change. The regulations that affect insurors vary from state to state, often arbitrarily and suddenly. Under such circumstances certainly errors will occur under the best of conditions without implying any systematic malfeasance, and occasionally a plaintiff's lawyer will have to assist in correcting them.

But I don't want to hear about insurance company profits, overcharging or other errors or excesses from somebody who bills and justifies $15K to the plaintiff's $18K share. If he doesn't like the risk of losing a case, then let him buy some insurance....

In short, the self-congratulatory tone and the unceasing propaganda against "Big Insurance" is over the top. Go ahead, drive insurors of business. The need that caused them to arise will still be there, so it will either go unmet or you'll get to deal with the tender mercies of the govt and its often arbitrary power.

I don't want that risk.

Monday, February 17, 2003


With the March 2003 issue PC World celebrated its 20th anniversary. Among the festivities is a recall of past predictions. My favorite was this one from a reader dated November 1990:
You chose to nitpick about the upgrade path [for IBM's PS/1]. How many home computer users will ever need to upgrade a system that already has a 10MHz 80286 processor, VGA, 1.44MB floppy, 30MB hard disk, mouse, and internal 2400-bps modem, plus DOS in ROM?
Oh, I'd say about all of us.

Dangerous animals

In terms of the number of human beings they kill every year, what are the 10 most dangerous animals? According to a show on the Travel Channel, they are:

10. Bears (6)
9. Sharks (8)
8. Hyenas (50)
7. Jellyfish (55)
6. Big cats (leopards, lions, tigers) (80)
5. Elephants (130)
4. Scorpions (500)
3. Crocodilians (2000)
2. Bees and wasps (10,000)
1. Snakes (100,000)

The numbers in parentheses are the worldwide death tolls per year.

Incidentally, acccording to the same program, road traffic kills around 1,000,000 per year. (I'm having a hard time buying that one - I'd figure the US would be a major contributor what with all the traffic and cars, but the last figure I remember was on the order of 40,000 per year).

They also said that for the following there were no recorded instances of kills of humans: wolves, tarantulas, piranhas, killer whales (orcas), and one other critter I don't recall.

For indirect killers through disease, the rankings were:

5. fleas
4. tsetse flies
3. parasitic worms
2. bedbugs
1. mosquitoes.

Looking for adventure?

Outward Bound was founded on the assumption:
  • That one reveres life for having experienced it in the very real and dramatic terms;
  • That from successful experience in an elemental setting, one can learn better to respect self;
  • That from respect of self can flow compassion and concern for others;
  • That from compassion for others one draws the commitment for service to man;
  • That in genuine service to the benefit of others one best expresses on a day-to-day basis his reverence for life itself.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Support democracy in Iraq

Dean Esmay has some suggestions here.

And while we're at it, why not support the Iranian students?

Sanctimonious trial lawyers

We have our own trial lawyer blogger at Instalawyer, Douglas C. Weinstein.

Of course he can't speak for the whole dirty business, although if you read it long enough you'd think that trial lawyers were the only friends you'll ever have. That might be true for him and some others, but not for the likes of the creeps shaking down tobacco and asbestos companies and who have now set their boundlessly greedy eyes upon fast food.

There is a theory that social goods should be provided by those who can do so at minimal social cost. Given that most of us don't have the means to crash test our cars, test our drugs, etc, such a theory would put the burden for providing such goods on their respective manufacturers. OK so far.

Now suppose we decide that a manufacturer has failed so egregiously that they deserve an economic "death penalty". That is, we determine that it's fair to liquidate their every last asset to pay off their victims. Then it would seem to me to be only equitable to insist that claims against the manufacturers be limited for each individual, if only to make sure that there is enough to compensate every aggrieved party. And it would seem that those who seek justice as the trial lawyers say they do would be first to insist on this lest other afflicted clients should be left empty-handed. Yet the very concept of a cap is anathema to trial lawyers.

Let's not forget the fees either. Surely the lawyers on both sides would have no problem with submitting to a detailed audit of their expenses and billing rates to assure that no one is making unconscionable profits. Such malfeasance comes out of the pockets of the victims, giving lie to the sanctimonious claims of justice-seeking from the trial lawyers. Surely abuse of such a public trust warrants severe disciplinary action including disbarment.

Weinstein talks around this by speaking of comparatively small cases, which to my knowledge no one is attempting to cap. Then again, he thinks it's cool for a $45K recovery in a suit over a broken ankle to be settled such that, net of expenses, the client would get $18K and the lawyer would get $15K.

He also cites a study that claims that '"tort reforms" do not produce lower insurance costs or rates.' Perhaps it didn't occur to him to mention that this report was produced by the Center for Justice and Democracy. From CJ&D's website:
The Center for Justice & Democracy is a non-profit, tax-exempt group, founded by consumer advocates, that is fighting to:

Raise public awareness about the value of our nation's civil justice system.

Inform the public about the dangers of "tort reform" and the stealth corporate campaign behind it.

Protect our right to civil jury trial and an independent judiciary for all Americans.
Hmm, doesn't sound too objective to me. And my opinion didn't improve when I saw the endorsement by Michael Moore. Might Mr. Weinstein have left out some information relevant to an informed evaluation here?

And let's not lose sight of the fact that Mr. Weinstein is not contending with insurance companies - he's opposing their lawyers. Are the lawyers on the corporate side doing something unethical in the course of doing their jobs for the insurance companies? If so, then let the legal profession police itself - we'll see if it does as well as, say, the medical profession. Ha - when was the last time you heard of a lawyer besides Bill Clinton getting disciplined, or any lawyer being hit for big malpractice damages?

No, I'm not a lawyer, in case that's not obvious enough yet. But I hope Mr. Weinstein doesn't throw his shoulder out patting himself on the back. He might not be able to find a doctor with malpractice insurance willing to take a chance on fixing it.

Fun with condoms

Ernie's House of WhoopAss isn't work safe. This is about as close as it gets:
You ask the bartender for a shotglass of water. Take out that unused condom from your wallet and unroll it. Now you drop 1/4 "Alkaseltzer" tablet into the glass and stretch the open end of the condom over the glass. Watch in glory as it will slowly achieve an erection, and bring laughter to most who see it.

If you want more excitement, you drop in a whole Alkaseltzer. After reaching full erection, it will continue to build pressure until it flies off the glass and around the room. It will sure make people duck. Nobody wants to be hit in the face by a high flying, wet condom.
A shot glass? Think bigger. I saw a demo on TV once in which a guy stretched a condom over his skull clear down to his upper lip, then proceeded to inflate it by exhaling through his nose.

I understand they're great for keeping dirt out of guns too.

Feel free to contribute further more condom uses. Then maybe we can build demand to the point where the creeps who market them will quit claiming you can trust them for birth control and/or disease prevention.