Friday, June 26, 2009


Most of you know how it works. You go to a mechanic for an oil change or a car problem. He changes the oil, or fixes the problem, and then he tells you "the timing belt is due for a change" or "you need a new battery."
Do you trust him? Do you have him do the work?
No. He has a financial incentive to do work on your car, regardless of whether the car needs that work done or not.
Three years ago, two different mechanics told me I needed a new battery, because my old one was near death. That old one still works fine, thank you.

Another scenario. You go to your doctor. He takes a look at your problem and recommends a surgery. What to you do?
You trust him. Your insurance pays thousands of dollars for the surgery.
And yet most doctors work much like mechanics--they get paid based on the number of surgeries they perform. And so they recommend way more surgeries than are actually necessary. This can actually do more harm to your body than good, as surgeries, and spending time in the hospital, always come with a bit of risk--a risk that is often bigger than the problem the doctor is solving with surgery.

So what do we do about it? Go to a hospital that doesn't pay doctors based on how many surgeries they do. A hospital that treats employees like most companies do--pays them a salary, expects 40 hours a week from them, and fires them if they cause too many problems or slack off. These doctors are more likely to have your interests at heart.
Unfortunately, your insurance is paying doctors to perform unnecessary surgeries on someone else. So you're paying doctors to perform unnecessary surgeries on someone else.
The system is broken. We need to stop paying doctors money based on the number of surgeries they perform, and start paying them for how well they help people become healthy.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fantastic food

Here's a mushroom gravy I created recently. Best on spaetzle (German egg noodles--you can buy them at most grocery stores, or, if you have a spaetzle-maker, make them very easily yourself). The gravy would probably work on potatoes too. Can serve with bratwurst, and either sauerkraut or rotkohl (I'd recommend the rotkohl). This is probably more authentically German than many of your options at a German restaurant. And it tastes better.
Mushroom gravy:
Chop up and saute 1 large onion (I use an electrical chopper that basically beats the onion into a pulp).
Saute 1.5 lbs sliced mushrooms.
Dissolve one beef bouillon cube in 1.5 cups heated water, and then add two tablespoons cornstarch to the broth. Mix, get all the lumps out, and then add the onions and the mushrooms to the mix. Add just a little milk or sour cream if it needs a little thinning, and add salt and pepper to taste. It should be very thick with mushrooms.
The Germans aren't the greatest cooks in the world, but they do know how to bake, they know how to properly cook cabbage (by turning it into sauerkraut or rotkohl) and they know how to prepare mushrooms. I wasn't a mushroom fan until I tasted them like this, done right. Now I can't get enough of them. I've even converted April.
Next up: Ruth's Rotkohl, stolen from a college friend who also served in Germany.

Friday, June 19, 2009


April's posted some great new baby pictures at
We'll be visiting Utah/Idaho in mid-August, and hope to give some of you the chance to see the little guy in person. He had his first laughing spell a couple of days ago--crazy, loud laughing. He got hiccups, but kept on laughing...what a great kid.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The benefits of not homeschooling

I have to admit, there are some benefits to homeschooling in high school. The ability to work at your own pace. The ability to study what you want, when you want to.
There are also big downsides.
You don't meet people. Many of my junior high and high school friends are still great friends, ten years later. I was roommates with one for four years of college, and roommates with others for one or two years. We're spread out now, my five best buddies from high school and I living in five different states, but I still consider them good friends. Had I been homeschooled, my pool for potential friends would've been much smaller. And I don't even want to think about my social skills--let's just say I was an awkward teenager, and my friends helped me overcome that. Being homeschooled would've been a huge disadvantage there.
I had teachers in public schools that challenged me in ways my parents never could. One of them, Ms. Boburg, passed away this last week. I would not have met a personality like her elsewhere at that age. Smart, demanding, funny, sarcastic. In fact, I had a number of unique, talented teachers. Great people, great teachers, but totally unlike other adults I knew from family and church. Public schools taught me to appreciate diversity of thought, something that homeschooling, no matter how well-intentioned my parents, never could. My parents challenged me, but Boburg and other teachers challenged me in ways that my parents didn't.
I'm glad my parents weren't the ones to teach me high school biology (trust me, as intelligent as they are, I'm glad someone with a biology degree did that). I still shudder to think about two cousins of mine, homeschooled in biology with the help of a pseudo-science textbook from Bob Jones University. I'm glad I had a science teacher, a British man raised in South Africa, a BYU graduate, and an LDS bishop, who told me he accepted evolution--it made the transition to a biology major at BYU that much easier. My parents still believe evolution and the gospel are incompatible. Had I been homeschooled and majored in Biology somewhere other than BYU, who knows what would have happened. I may have, as Henry Eyring put it, seen the evidence for evolution and "thrown the baby out with the bath."
Six years of English allowed me to get perspectives on literature from six different people, who understood books much better than my mother. Even had my mother excelled at all areas of knowledge, she had only one perspective to offer, which was her own.
Do public schools have issues? Certainly. But a smart parent will put their child in a good school, ensure the child has good, demanding teachers, and encourage the child to take honors classes (where most of the good teachers teach anyway).
Meanwhile, RIP Ms. Boburg. You excelled at a demanding, poor-paying job, where you never got the respect you earned. And by doing so, you blessed thousands of lives. You are missed.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Here's your chance

I've heard many people justify waterboarding by claiming it's justified if it will save lives.
But I'm convinced it's only justified to these people if it's done to a foreigner. Make that a non-white, non-Christian foreigner.
Want to prove me wrong? Here's your chance.
Let me preface this by saying that I hate unneeded abortions--but I hate freaks like this even more. I also don't support torture, including waterboarding (which the US considered torture when it was done to our guys), in any form.
The guy who murdered the abortion doctor in Kansas, as the doctor was serving as an usher at church, is quoted in a news article as saying, "I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal." The article then continues, "He would not elaborate."
Here's a chance to practice...enhanced interrogation. This guy knows lives are in danger, but he refuses to tell law enforcement information that could save those lives. Waterboarding time.
Somehow I don't think it will happen.
Why not?
Because he's a white Christian American.
If you have any other ideas of why he won't get tortured, let me know.
Double standard.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Misunderstanding Galadriel

Galadriel is a secondary character in Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings." If you're unfamiliar with the books (which would be a shame, since they're the greatest work of fiction of the 20th century), then think of the character Cate Blanchett plays. Yes, that's right. The one that goes crazy scary when Frodo offers her the Ring. And the one who gives many of the main characters gifts and shelter. Without her help, they would have failed.
Two of my favorite quotes in the "Two Towers" involve main characters who defend Galadriel.
First, Eomer (another secondary character) says to Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, after they tell him they have the favor of "the Lady,": "Then there is a Lady in the Golden Wood, as old tales tell! Few escape her nets, they say. These are strange days! But if you have her favour, then you also are net-weavers and sorcerers, maybe." Gimli replies: "Let (me) warn you against foolish words. You thought to speak evil of that which is fair beyond the reach of your thought, and only little wit can excuse you."
Second, after Eomer reports home to his father Theoden (and to Wormtongue, who controls Theoden), Wormtongue says to Gandalf, "Then it is true...that you are in league with the Sorceress of the Golden Wood? It is not to be wondered at: webs of deceit were ever woven in Dwimordene." Gimli tries to confront Wormtongue about this slight on Galadriel, but Gandalf holds him back and tells Wormtongue, "The wise speak only of what they know."
I like these quotes because they illustrate two things I cannot stand: people who speak evil of good things they do not comprehend, and people who discuss matters they are entirely ignorant of.
In some circles, people are proud of being ignorant. They claim they are unbiased because they've never formally studied a subject. They claim they are more humble and hardworking because they never traveled. They claim they know there is no God without ever asking Him sincerely if He exists. And they are of little wit and not wise.
May we strive to have more "wit" and be wise. And may we encourage others to do likewise.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Hulu recommendations

Recommended for viewing on Hulu:
1. The first 3 seasons of Buffy. Fun times.
2. The first season of Angel. Even better than the first 3 seasons of Buffy (which I certainly wasn't expecting).
3. Journeyman. Never heard of it before, but I looked around for good sci-fi shows on Hulu, and this one had good ratings. More importantly, it's actually good. It's set in 2007, and involves some time travel, and what happens to real life when you inexplicably pop out of the present and into the past. When you're done in the past, you pop back into the present--hours or days later. I liked it more because it's a good show than because it's sci-fi, although the sci-fi element doesn't hurt it. I like that it struggles with the messiness of relationships and work and family, and how they conflict with the time travel. Unfortunately, some of the struggles are solved a bit too easily (perhaps because the writers found out the show would be canceled after just one season, and wanted to wrap up loose ends, or perhaps just a weakness in the storytelling). In any case, despite that one small weakness, I recommend it. And it's not as PG-13 as Buffy or Angel.
I've also watched the first episode of a number of shows I didn't care for (including Pretender and Eureka).
Now, I've got to find a way to borrow the rest of Buffy and Angel...
Any more recommendations for great TV shows?

Thursday, June 04, 2009


We've rescheduled our visit to Utah/Idaho for mid-August.
We're sad we're not there right now, but happy that we were able to schedule something.
We fly in August 11, we'll spend maybe 5 or 6 days in Utah, drive up to Idaho for a couple of days, I'll fly back to Cincinnati to start school, and April will stay in Idaho for another week or so.
Hope to see some of you in a couple of months.