Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Car Shopping

I don't really like shopping for another car. Katherine and I have two cars and neither are doing well. I think Katherine is buying a truck as I write this. She found an old 1988 Ford F-150 with a new engine. As long as the frame checks out, she's found the truck she's always wanted. We've looked at a replacement for our Nissan Sentra (200,000+ miles) several times now. Everybody talks up their vehicle, but you can never be sure. On the phone and in pictures, everything looks great, but when you get to the driveway, the thing is a piece of junk.

Well, maybe I'll just sink a couple thousand into the Sentra. I thinkI'd be better off.

I hate shopping.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

It is by living --

"It is by living -- no rather, by dying and being damned that a theologian is made, not by understanding, reading or speculating."

Martin Luther

Monday, March 20, 2006

Da Vinci Code

I've been getting lots of questions recently about The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Tim Keller spoke about it at length (and the closing, climactic illustration was read from Harry Potter) in last week's sermon. The big movie is coming soon. I'm thinking of doing a lecture on it, like a Schaeffer Institute thing. I haven't read the novel yet. There are so many, many books that seek to denounce the validity of Brown's theory, I want to be careful not to use a straw man argument, but as best as I can tell, Brown has, in fact, created his own straw man. The actual thing is pretty easy to knock over, if you know your church history, or art history, or political history, or cultural history in general.

Any thoughts? Would any of my readers be interested in such a lecture (whether or not you could attend)? If it would be helpful to you, it might be helpful to others, too. If not, I won't bother with it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

New Running Shoes

Last May I competed in Miami's 5K Corporate Run. I plan to do so this year, but I'll know better what to expect, and try to get in the right starting position this time.

Last night I bought the most expensive pair of shoes I've ever worn. My knees are a starting to be a bit sensitive and I've always worn cheap (but name brand) shoes. I've never really had comfortable running shoes, and I understand that people find comfort in particular brands. So far, I've tried Nike, Reebok and New Balance. Not really comfortable for me. So, I decided to try a new brand (hoping for comfort) and a better quality than I'm used to (hoping for no pain in the knees). I went with the Asics Kayano XI, which is now out of production, but you can see its successor here.

I'll run this afternoon for the first time on them, and I don't expect them to be comfortable for a few weeks. If anyone's interested in a review next month, respond here and I'll post one.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Coming Healthcare Crisis

As a healthcare chaplain, I deal quite a bit with bioethics, ethics at the end of life, and ethics regarding healthcare of the poor. For those who don't know it yet, there is a huge crisis coming in the healthcare of our country. Let me quickly explain:

Healthcare costs are rising. Insurance rates are rising. This means that fewer companies are offering their employees health insurance, and the ones who are doing so, are charging more money from the employees. This means that fewer people can afford health insurance. Without insurance, people cannot pay for healthcare. Nobody pays for a surgery by writing a check.

What happens to uninsured people who need medical care? They go to the emergency department of their local hospital. Hospitals are required by law to treat people who come to the emergency department, regardless of their ability to pay. How can a hospital afford to do this? By jacking up the price for all the people who are able to pay -- those with insurance. So, insurance prices go up, meaning fewer people can pay for insurance. So those people go to the emergency room, driving prices even higher. By the way, the emergency room is the most expensive way to provide healthcare -- by far.

Let me add some ethical considerations into the equation. The United States is the only industrialized country that has uninsured people. Our infant mortality rates are higher and our life expectancy is lower than average for industrialized countries. Yet, we spend far more than any other country on healthcare. We are spending more than 15% of our gross domestic product on healthcare. The country that spends the next highest is Switzerland at 10%. So, we're paying more, and getting much less than any other country.

Universal healthcare has its problems. Certainly the plan offered by Clinton was very problematic, but there are other ways of looking at universal healthcare. There is no way to provide the best healthcare to everybody, everywhere. We must discriminate who gets healthcare. The two ways to discriminate in the world are by time and by money. In the USA, we've decided to discriminate by money. If you have money, you get healthcare. Every other nation in the world has decided to discriminate by time. If you want to see a doctor, it is free, but you might have to wait a few weeks or months. The ethical question is this -- Is healthcare a commodity like sofa or computer or car? Or is healthcare a right, like clean water and police protection? I believe healthcare should come to all people. It is a right-to-life issue. In the USA, we disagree.

As it turns out, the USA is sicker than other countries -- perhaps injustice has its consquences.

Where do we go from here? I like the recent legislation in Maine. The state requires all companies of a certain size to provide affordable healthcare for all employees and their families, otherwise huge tax penalties. The tax penalties will then go to help pay for the healthcare of those company's employees. Basically, if you have a job, you and your family have healthcare. It's not universal healthcare, but it's getting closer, and is viable in a political atmosphere of supreme devotion to individualistic capitalism. We'll see how the debate continues.

These are pretty random thoughts. It occurs to me that I might think through the structure of these thoughts better and write an essay about it.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Reverse Vampire

I gave blood again recently. I really enjoy it, and it's a good thing to do. The bloodmobile comes to the hospital every 8 weeks -- the perfect timing for regular donation. I'm a universal donor, with near legendary veins, so they always like me. I help the new phlebotomists to feel good about the direction of their careers -- they never have any problems sticking me. I have a good heritage of blood donation, I remember my father going often. They always give orange juice and cookies -- and a blood donation T-shirt. I love those T-shirts. They are a badge of honor for me, but my wife hates them.

However, this time -- no T-shirt. What?!? Free movie ticket instead. Ok, that's not bad. But I'd rather have a T-shirt.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Yesterday I ate 4 meals at work. 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm. Each was a tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread and a quart of water. Then, after work, I went to the gym to exercise. Then, I went home and ruined it with dinner. Pizza, beer and ice cream, followed by a couple games of Madden 2006.

However, I brought more tuna sandwiches today, and I'll exercise again. I'm getting back on track. Since the beginning of my blog, I've had a link on the right for John Stone Fitness. I'm posting there again, and that's a good sign. Still in the woods, but on the right path, and moving forward. Momentum is small, but growing.

I saw on today's "Today" on NBC, Condi Rice exercises 45 minutes each day (first thing each morning). She has exercise equipment in the state department's airplane so she doesn't miss a workout. I have enormous respect for Secretary Rice. I'm sure she could not do what she does without consistant hard exercise.

Ok, I'm about as fat as I've ever been . . . and as fat as I ever will be, by God's grace.