"An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted." - Arthur Miller

Monday, December 07, 2009

Links of the Day

Decode Your VIN - Turns out the VIN number isn't just a unique identifier of your car but a detailed breakdown that describes your cars make, features, model year, assembly plant and more. Click the link to learn more.

Barnes & Noble Nook Review - First review of the final unit that I have seen. Solid device, runs slow (screen refresh, menu response, pretty much everything), has a small learning curve for the UI, good use of the second color touch screen but still needs improvement. My read is it is further proof to not buy the 1.0 version of new tech even if it’s copying the 2.0 version of someone else's (in this case the Kindle). Still, I am interested in the possibilities, just waiting for the price and tech to get to become worth the investment. Below is a video showing off the interface.

Avatar Costliest Film Ever - James Cameron likes to hit new thresholds in expense as Titanic’s $200 million was a new high 10 years ago and now Avatar's $300 million budget has once again moved the bar. Fox and Cameron are being coy about the film's cost, probably waiting until have at least the first weekend's box office to determine profitability feasibility. However, Cameron has bragged that his team essentially re-invented motion capture technology from scratch, finding Robert Zemeckis (A Christmas Carol) lacking. Technically this rather expensive R&D undertaking normally would be added to the film's cost which might explain early $500 million estimates for the film.

Legend of Zelda: Sprit Tracks Review - The next installment of the Zelda franchise finally comes out tomorrow and so far reviews are good. Like the one at the link, pretty much all say the game is fun, Zelda's heavy use add a good element to the game, the dungeons and puzzles are solid but the train travel is about as tedious as the sailboat was in the other DS installments.

MLR and Healthcare - While the article at the link is about one thing, I found the information about the MLR (medical loss ratio) to be more interesting because it is a key value used by insurance companies in determining their profits. In short, the higher the ratio, the more money spent on healthcare and less going to paperwork and profits. So of course insurance companies want that number as low as possible. As Aetna learned, even going up 1.5% can cost a company billions in market value. This was not because of loss in profits but because Wall Street used that as a queue to sell their shares at lower values. In essence, this easily describes why healthcare companies are in the business of saying no. If they say yes to procedures and those with pre-existing conditions, the MLR goes up, they make less. So no is, by market necessity and rules of capitalism, a must. Therefore, reform by the market has no real reason to occur without some outside force like laws.

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