Monday, September 28, 2009

Teaching kids self-control [Bryan]

So, apparently the latest thinking on teaching kids self-control is this: extended periods of adult make believe. By imagining they are playing an adult role, and by such roles being enforced by other children in the play situation, kids learn to purposefully direct their thoughts and control their emotions.

The very interesting article in the New York Times is here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The key to various things [Bryan]

Some hard won wisdom:

1. The key to good popcorn is to use white popcorn, not yellow popcorn.

2. The keys to being a good teacher are enthusiasm and asking good questions (i.e, questions with an answer that is not immediately obvious).

3. The key ingredient to chocolate chip cookies is sea salt, and more of it than you might think.

4. The key to publishing an academic paper is to relentlessly revise and resubmit, documenting in detail what you have done to please the reviewers.

5. The key to buying a good car is never buying anything but a Toyota.

6. The key to understanding Hegel is to realize he is just warmed-over Aristotle.

7. The key to a good television show is that it is written or produced by Joss Whedon.

8. The key to losing weight is, alas, eating almost nothing -- exercise does not matter at all.

9. The key to a happy marriage is to help out around the house.

10. The key to recognizing Baroque music is to listen for the basso continuo.

11. The key to tying a bow tie is to stick your finger in the knot to widen the hole at the final stage.

12. The key to reading the Book of Revelation is to read it as poetry.

13. The key to success in basketball is the pump fake.

14. The key to a good rock band is the bass player.

15. The key to good pancakes is a good griddle.

16. The key to a good milkshake is that it is thin, not thick, as most people seem to think. You should be able to drink a milkshake from a straw.

17. The key to good cooking in general is this: fresh cilantro.

18. The key to successful fishing is to go where there are fish. (Obvious point, but I've learned it the hard way.)

19. The key to getting anything done is to avoid any place where you can connect to the Internet.

20. The key to using a public restroom is to choose the second-to-last stall near the very end. It is usually the cleanest.

Anybody have anything to add to this list?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Moral Argument [Bryan]

There are many things I don't fully understand about American health care system, or the debates about reform. I have tried to read carefully about what is being proposed, and I'm still not sure I understand what a "health care co-op" is, or how it is supposed to work. I don't fully understand the proposed cost savings, and somewhat doubt that all the desired savings will materialize. Many of the proposals sound like great ideas to my untrained ear, but I'm really in no position to judge or to predict the future. Even the best intentioned and most carefully reasoned policies can have unexpected outcomes.

Still, there is one thing that I think I do understand: The current system is a moral travesty. A recent study by the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that 45,000 people, on average, die each year because they do not have health insurance, even controlling for all the different variables. This is, admittedly, on the high side of estimates I've read about. An earlier Institute of Medicine study, for example, estimated that 20,000 people a year die because of lack of access. This does not even take into account those who have insurance, but are denied coverage related to necessary treatments.

Let's take the lower number. Suppose terrorists were killing 20,000 people a year in this country. Remember that 3,000 people died on 9/11 and the country went berserk. Yet we are strangely indifferent to a situation in which about 7 times that number die every single year. It seems that if 20,000 people a year were dying from terrorists attacks we would want to try something, anything, to stop it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Recent Family Pics and Vids [Bryan]

Andrew the giraffe.

Nora the futbol star. This is her first real involvement in sports. She is catching on fast.

Look closely at Nora's front tooth. It is extending at almost a 45 degree angle outward. A new tooth is coming in behind it and has wedged the old tooth upward. People tell me that there is nothing to worry about, but it sure looks funny.

Stephen has really started to babble in a cute way. I swear he is trying to say Dad-Da. Right?

Another Stephen development: Scooting on his tummy across the room. It is fun to watch him go, but hard to get him to do it on film.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What do doctors and nurses think of health reform? Updated! [Bryan]

So what do doctors and nurses think of the health reform proposals? My sense is they are all over the map [actually not: see update], just like the rest of the country. It is worth pointing out, though, that health care reform has strong support from the vast majority of professional medical organizations. According to the Health Care Reform Debate Blog, the following medical organizations have backed the House Bill 3200 (or something close to it), which is the strongest health reform bill in place.
The American Osteopathic Association, American College of Physicians, American Society of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Surgeons, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Gastroenterological Association, Society of Hospital Medicine, American College of Cardiology, and American Society of Clinical Oncology.
The following organizations seem to support the general idea of reform, but have withheld judgment until the bill is more advanced:
American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, American College of Radiology, American College of Emergency Physicians.
The following groups have opposed the H.R. 3200 until their reimbursement concerns are met:
American Society of Anesthesiology
Meanwhile, the American Nurses Association issued the following comment:
Members of the American Nurses Association (ANA) joined President Obama today to demonstrate their strong support for the President and his speech to the joint session of the U.S. Congress last night urging action on health reform that would provide more security and stability to those with health insurance and guarantee access to affordable health care for those without it....

ANA President Rebecca M. Patton, MSN, RN, CNOR praised President Obama at his first public appearance on health care reform since addressing Congress for advocating for people who lack access to basic health care services in the nation’s “broken system” and for fighting for consumer protections in the health insurance market. Long ranked as the nation’s most trusted profession by Gallup’s annual survey, nursing has advocated for health system reform for two decades.
The Mayo Clinic, a leader is efficient and cost-effective medical delivery, issued a strong statement in favor of reform:
Mayo Clinic strongly supports President Obama’s call for health insurance reform and health care delivery reform, and agrees with the President’s position that the status quo is not acceptable.
The AMA strongly supports reform:
Today, the American Medical Association sent a letter to House leaders supporting H.R. 3200, "America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009." "This legislation includes a broad range of provisions that are key to effective, comprehensive health system reform," said J. James Rohack, MD, AMA president. "We urge the House committees of jurisdiction to pass the bill for consideration by the full House."

Actually, doctors are not as divided as I thought. According to a poll in the New England Journal of Medicine, most doctors support a public plan of some sort:
A large majority of doctors say there should be a public option.

When polled, "nearly three-quarters of physicians supported some form of a public option, either alone or in combination with private insurance options," says Dr. Salomeh Keyhani. She and Dr. Alex Federman, both internists and researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, conducted a random survey, by mail and by phone, of 2,130 doctors. They surveyed them from June right up to early September.

Most doctors -- 63 percent -- say they favor giving patients a choice that would include both public and private insurance. That's the position of President Obama and of many congressional Democrats. In addition, another 10 percent of doctors say they favor a public option only; they'd like to see a single-payer health care system. Together, the two groups add up to 73 percent.
I had no idea the medical profession was staffed by America-hating communists who want to kill grandmas.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The perfect mashed potatoes [Bryan]

Over the past 11 years, I have been experimenting with mashed potatoes. Like Ahab pursuing Moby Dick, dogged and determined, relentless, I have been pursuing the best way to prepare them. I have stalked them like a psychotic lover, dreamed of them, yearned for them. I was beginning to doubt myself, to second guess myself, to think that, like Plato's Forms, they were an ideal that could never be actualized in this fallen, material world. Today, though, I think I finally achieved it: the perfect bowl of mashed potatoes!

Here is my recipe:

Bryan's Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

8 medium size potatoes (6 peeled, 2 with skins still on)
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 big gobs sour cream
1 big gob plain yogurt
1/3 stick of butter
A bit of milk
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

1. Cut potatoes and boil until soft. Drain water.

2. Add garlic, cream, sour cream, yogurt, butter. Whip well with mixer. Add milk and mix some more to achieve a fluffy and creamy consistency.

3. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Enjoy!

Nice win, BYU [Bryan]

I just gave credit to President Bush, so I guess I will shock everyone and give credit to BYU. I was starting to think that only Utah could beat the big boys. BYU proved me wrong on Saturday. A nice win for the scrappy, disciplined, underdogs.

See you in November, Cougars!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Remember all the hand-wringing... [Bryan]

Remember all the hand-wringing about the big, $700 billion bank bailout last year? How is that turning out? It actually seems to be turning out well, although it is still probably too early to tell. So far, taxpayers have made about $4 billion. The New York Times reports:
Nearly a year after the federal rescue of the nation’s biggest banks, taxpayers have begun seeing profits from the hundreds of billions of dollars in aid that many critics thought might never be seen again. The profits, collected from eight of the biggest banks that have fully repaid their obligations to the government, come to about $4 billion, or the equivalent of about 15 percent annually, according to calculations compiled for The New York Times.
At this point, I guess I should, um, give some credit to President Bush who pushed this through over Republican objections. (I think that this a first for this blog!)

Now, remember all the hand-wringing over the $800 billion stimulus package? How is that turning out? The Wall Street Journal reports:
The U.S. economy is beginning to show signs of improvement, with many economists asserting the worst is past and data pointing to stronger-than-expected growth. On Tuesday, data showed manufacturing grew in August for the first time in more than a year....

Much of the stimulus spending is just beginning to trickle through the economy, with spending expected to peak sometime later this year or in early 2010. The government has funneled about $60 billion of the $288 billion in promised tax cuts to U.S. households, while about $84 billion of the $499 billion in spending has been paid...

Economists say the money out the door -- combined with the expectation of additional funds flowing soon -- is fueling growth above where it would have been without any government action.

Many forecasters say stimulus spending is adding two to three percentage points to economic growth in the second and third quarters, when measured at an annual rate. The impact in the second quarter, calculated by analyzing how the extra funds flowing into the economy boost consumption, investment and spending, helped slow the rate of decline and will lay the groundwork for positive growth in the third quarter -- something that seemed almost implausible just a few months ago. Some economists say the 1% contraction in the second quarter would have been far worse, possibly as much as 3.2%, if not for the stimulus.
The next time someone says that the government should cut spending in the recession, feel free to snicker.