Marike und Marianne 22-26SEPT17

November 5th, 2017

Marike and Marianne visit to Washington State

22-26SEPT2017

Betsy and I had heard that our friend Marike from Germany was coming over to the USA, so wished to introduce her to the Pacific NorthWest. She was accompanied by her friend Marianne, both were environmental studies students in Berlin. Jon and I had encountered Marike in Berlin while we were passing through, and left her my touring bicycle, with agreement that she would pay for it at her earliest convenience. I guess that no time will ever be “convenient” for her. Knowing that she would be in America for a wedding, she and her travel friend decided to see the PNW. We picked her up at the airport, and after settling in, went out to dinner at the Lobster Shop in downtown Tacoma. The next day, it was a planned trip to Mt. Rainier. We did the loop around the mountain going clockwise, starting north through Enumclaw. Our adventure went up to Sunrise, and a 4-5 mile hike ensued. The weather was cloudy, but periods of being able to see the entire mountain would happen, leaving it a spectacular beauty. I didn’t anticipate snow, but Sunrise received a dusting, as you can see from the above photo. We didn’t have enough time to do too much else, but did stop at Reflection Lakes, though it had clouded over by then and no reflections were to be seen.

At Sunrise point

A view of the mountain

That evening, we went out to dinner at Chili Thai, joined by Dr. Peters. The next day ended up to be unexpectedly a bit more clear in weather, but we had other plans, starting with the museum of glass. We decided against doing too much more in downtown Tacoma, and drove home, followed by a long walk on the Foothills trail to the Carbon River crossing from Orting.

On the Carbon River bridge

Monday took us to Seattle proper. We drove to Angle Lake and rode the light rail into the city. Our first adventure was downtown, seeing the sites and hitting Pike Place market. Running a bit short on time, we rode the monorail up to Seattle Center, where we viewed the Space Needle and saw the general sites of the old world fair. At this point, Marike wanted to see the museum of pop culture, but Marianne and I were not so interested, so we split up. Marianne and I went back downtown, and ran down to the waterfront, where we toured various shops. After that, we quickly ran up to the Flagship REI store in Seattle, which Marike and Marianne were both interested in. After purchasing several memorable REI t-shirts, we stopped by the Feathered Friends store (which makes down parka/sleeping bags for fun and expeditions) and then ran back to WestLake Center to reconnoitre with Marike.

In old town Seattle, next to a commemoration of Chief Seattle

Pike Place Market

On the Monorail

The Space Needle

Museum of Pop Culture

The REI headquarters in downtown Seattle

The grounds around the Seattle REI

Tuesday was the day to say goodbyes. I took Marike to the airport, and Marianne went to spend several more days in Seattle, followed by several days in Portland, meeting up with my sister Gloria, who took Marianne around town. It was an enjoyable time with the two girls, though their interest was mostly environmental, and they had arrived right at the dead end of the PNW season for getting outdoors, making it difficult to plan for outings. The two girls were quite enjoyable to be with, but Betsy and I (and Gloria) were left a little bit perplexed about matters, as though we might have offended their sensibilities. Strangely, they have not made any effort to reconnect with us. Perhaps their preconceptions from the German media have left them with an American stereotype offensive to their taste. Perhaps we were just old fogies unable to satisfy the whims of the youthful heart. Whatever it was, I do hope they do well in their studies and that they single-handedly save the world from an environmental catastrophe. So I wish them the best.

Why I am leaving Medicine

May 17th, 2017

Why I am Leaving Medicine

Kenneth A. Feucht, M.D., Ph.D.

I formally decided to quasi-retire in October of 2016. This meant for me, getting out of the surgical oncology profession. My intention is to continue working until 31MAR2018 in an outpatient wound care clinic associated with the hospital in Puyallup, WA where I live. Remember that training in my profession consisted of 15 years past the 12 years through high school, so that I have completely identified myself as a surgeon, making my profession not easy to give up. I would have liked to continue practice until I was 65 or more, but frustration with medicine and the changes which have occurred since becoming a physician have led to my desire to leave medicine. This is not an easy decision. I have a deep love for my patients, and found the profession to be quite rewarding. It was particularly satisfying dealing with patients not only for the relief of their physical ailment, but also to help them psychologically and spiritually through a major crisis in their life, which is usually the situation when somebody is given a diagnosis of cancer. With my decision to retire a bit earlier than I had wished, I felt that chronicling the root causes for my decision would be appropriate. The list of my grievances with the health care profession is in no way intended to be comprehensive, but to cover the major areas of frustration for me as a surgeon. This is NOT an in-depth, heavily researched paper with references and documentation, but an off-the-cuff rendering of my feelings regarding the status of health care. Perhaps someday I will take the time to render a more academic version of this treatise.

Health Care Orientation

Hospitals began in the fourth century in central Turkey in a region called Cappadocia. At that time, the poor and destitute who were ill were abandoned by the community and sent away into the woods, where they were often eaten by wolves or other forest beasts. This allowed for containment of communicable diseases, but did not reflect well on the care of the ill patient. It was St. Basil who took these poor people and reincorporated them into a caring community environment. Thus, we get our word “hospice” or “hospital” from the latin word which would be translated as “hospitable”. Hospitals became defined as an agency that attended to and offered the patient an ability to return to the community of the faithful while under care.

Germans have two names for hospitals. The most common is “das Krankenhaus”, though they also use the term “das Hospital”. Translated literally, “Krankenhaus” simply means “sick house”. It is a vastly more fitting word for what we have today, and the term “hospital” should go out of existence. Hospitals are no longer places of caring, and they do not offer the patient a gracious return to the community, or hospitality. They are places where patients are treated with sterile rigor, where children dump aging parents once they have become a nuisance, where occupants are considered to be more work for already overworked nurses, where physicians rapidly fly by patients, knowing that they dare not say either too much or to little, but where everything needs to be documented in a complex electronic database, and where nurses spend most of their time making sure that those databases are replete with boilerplate (and thus useless) data to fulfill various government mandates over what needs to be documented. The entire orientation of healthcare is a narcissistic reflection on themselves looking past and ignoring the raison d’être for their existence, the patient!

Defining “Healthcare”

What is healthcare? What is involved? What is health? What is wellness? How do you define something nebulous? The dictionary defines it as “the maintenance or improvement of health via the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in human beings.” This definition can be strewn out to as broad of meaning as life itself. Is my mental stress over an upcoming test in school a part of healthcare? Is my desire to become and identified as a female when I started out genetically and physically a male a part of healthcare? Is my carelessness in attending to my mental state when I accidentally kill somebody while driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol actually a healthcare problem?

But, why do we even waste the time to precisely define the full nature of healthcare? Is it really important that we have a narrow versus broad definition of healthcare? From a personal point of view, the manner of defining healthcare is unimportant, but from a health care policy perspective, it is vital. The government promises that healthcare will be paid for, but exactly what that means is quite vague. In Germany, going to the spa for a week or two rest is covered. In the USA, the breadth of coverage constantly changes according to what is politically expedient. Oregon attempted to identify and rank cost-effective treatments to determine what might be covered. Since physician assisted suicide is very cost effective, it ranked quite high up. Is this proper? Assisting somebody in suicide seems to be counter to the entire goal of the medical profession, but nobody could doubt that much expense is saved by terminating the patient. If trans-sexual surgery is covered by government policy, why isn’t all cosmetic surgery covered, since it is aiding to personal well-being and how a person defines themselves? Why isn’t food free, since it is really taken to prevent healthcare problems? Why isn’t our housing and the cost of maintaining housing covered, since it all contributes to me maintaining and improving my health?

What about health itself? How do you define health? Is it just the absence of sickness? If so, then obesity would not be a health problem, or smoking, or any other dangerous activity, until it caused a problem. Some people choose to live through disabilities that would be viewed as insurmountable by others and refuse to identify their disabilities as an “illness”.

A frightening result of having an all-encompassing definition of healthcare that is provided for by government, is that they then must adopt the role of supervising our behaviors in order to maximize the government definition of health and well being. Does somebody really want the government telling them that certain activities are forbidden? Does anybody really want government prescribing exactly what you can eat and how much you can eat in order to stay healthy. When Michelle Obama attempted to regulate school lunches in order to decrease obesity, it was found that the children actually became more obese who were on the lunch program. When do we decide that decisions in our life become none of the government’s business? If we allow that government is responsible for health and well-being, we must realize that we are then completely giving away our freedom.

In reality, the public definition of healthcare is impossible and it would be best if we remove any attempt at defining the realm and coverage of what we think as healthcare.

Government interference

We are constantly being bombarded in the news that a new regime of politicians will correct the messes that former regimes have created in federal health care policy. I will speak of ObamaCare specifically a bit later, but here address specifically issues of government policy in health care. Over the course of the last century, we have gone from a situation where there was no government involvement directly in healthcare, to where government pervades virtually every aspect of the healthcare scene. Government first became involved in healthcare in Germany during the tenure of Bismarck. In 1883, he created a national healthcare system which provided insurance to all citizens. Many countries today follow the Bismarck model, though we do not in the USA. (ObamaCare seemed to be a model that attempted to simulate the Bismarck model though not utilizing many of the most important aspects of the Bismarck model.) Through the introduction of Medicare by president Johnson in the 1960’s, there has been a slow invasion of government into the healthcare scene. Government continues to fund increasing amounts of healthcare, and thus has taken an increasing stance toward controlling health care costs. At the same time, the innocent introduction of internal means of quality improvement (such as the JCAHO, which was started by surgeons as a means of voluntarily improving surgical quality across hospitals in the USA) has evolved into a beast that neither improves the care of patient nor the quality of healthcare delivered. More will be spoken on JCAHO later.

In times past, physicians generally took the Hippocratic oath on graduation from medical school. If not the Hippocratic Oath, then a somewhat similar oath (see article on the Hippocratic Oath, referenced below) was offered. In the Hippocratic Oath, three parties are involved, which include the patient, the physician, and the god(s). Glaringly omitted from the ancient oaths were the health care system, insurers, the government, and anybody else outside of the three mentioned. This is only right, and an article I’ve written on the oath covers why such an arrangement is so vital to the doctor-patient interaction (http://feuchtblog.net/die-veroffentlichungen/the-hippocratic-and-other-oaths/ ). Healthcare is now run by a multiplicity of bureaucrats and idiot savants who love to tell physicians and patients what is best for them without any knowledge of either the patient or physician. Government makes a cookie cutter mold that all diseases and persons are supposed to fit into. Diagnoses have a number assigned to them according to the ICD-10 manual, and no diagnosis will fail to have a specific number. Treatments and procedures also have their number, called the CPT code, with a one-size-fits-all mentality.

Government healthcare is run by bureaucrats. These are the self-serving policy wonks and bean counters that control the health care of all occupants of the United States, citizens and non-citizens, consenting and non-consenting, the sick as well as the healthy, the only exception being the politicians themselves. Most often, these healthcare pundits have been in the health care profession as either physicians or nurses, but are now removed from actually providing care, and thus not experiencing the consequences of the policies they implement. Being removed from health care, they may act with heartfelt concern for their colleagues in the trenches, but will never be able to properly address the constantly changing healthcare scene that affects healthcare delivery. In addition, their policies will fail to address all contingencies and variations in the disease process or patient goals and needs.

The government, since they intend on paying for healthcare, are obsessed with the cost of healthcare. Yet, they strangely seem to be the most clueless as to why healthcare costs so much. Perhaps healthcare costs are high because of government interference?

Two organizations from the federal government have been particularly harmful to healthcare, that of the food and drug administration (FDA) and the other the center for disease control (CDC). The FDA started as a well intentioned idea to protect the public from potentially dangerous drugs. The thalidomide incident in the 1960s is instructive. Thalidomide is a medication designed to decrease morning sickness in pregnancy, but was noted well after the fact to occasionally cause phocomelia, very short limbs, in some of the babies exposed to this drug in utero. I’m not sure that thalidomide babies could have been prevented even if the FDA was functioning as they do now, but a good crisis has not gone to waste by the government. It now takes many more years for a drug to go from creation to market in the USA as compared to Europe and other countries in the world. Drug development costs have risen to exceed a billion dollars to get an new drug to market in the USA. Yet, American patients are not safer than European patients, though we are denied rapid access to potentially useful medications.

While the FDA “protects” us against dangerous drugs, the CDC is here to “protect” us from various communicable diseases. I have less of a problem with the CDC than the FDA, though the CDC remains over-reaching in so much of what they do, and persist in trying to justify their own existence. The flu vaccine is a perfect example. It is close to impossible to predict which flu antigens would be dominant in any flu season, and the antigens of choice are made by “educated” guess. I know of no randomized trials that have proven within reasonable doubt that mass forced administration of the flu vaccine decreases morbidity or mortality from the flu. Health care personnel that work for hospitals are mandated to take the flu vaccine, and we have no other options. It matters not that we might have strong personal preferences against the flu vaccine. Another example, Gardasil, the vaccination against HPV, is sold to prevent genital warts, and thus cervical cancer, and is recommended for all males and females between 10-12 years of age. It is of value only for the sexually promiscuous female, but is strongly encouraged that all children receive this vaccine. Long term effects of the vaccine are essentially unknown. The CDC would love to have this vaccine mandated, and there is great pressure on all children to receive the vaccine, even from family physicians. This represents an over-arching hand that doesn’t allow for patients to make personal choices regarding their behaviors and actions, but assumes that all patients (or children) will be irresponsible and not have to take account of their actions. The CDC in effect takes the roll of parent, and displaces the biological parents as having a say in the behavior of your children.

ObamaCare Mess

ObamaCare is presented as the great revolution in healthcare, the solution to all of our problems, the defining policy that will allow all people in America to have adequate health care without obstruction from inability to pay. The health care bill was so voluminous that nobody in congress was able to read it in its entirety, and the proponents demanded that the bill be passed before one could discover what was in it. I won’t belabor the nature of ObamaCare because I have not read the bill, nor have any interest in reading the bill. What I will discuss is how it has affected physicians attempting to care for patients.

Obamacare wished to improve everybody’s access to healthcare, including that of illegal aliens. To do so, health care insurance was mandated to all. If you didn’t purchase healthcare, you were fined. You could either purchase private insurance, or the state would provide options. The rules were tightly defined for enrolling or switching health care plans. The presumption is that all people then had health care. Wrong! The cost of healthcare has continually escalated, and all plans had a copay for any service rendered. Copays were intended to prevent flippant and casual care. In actual fact, it has served to be more restrictive than anything to actual access to care. There are many patients that have turned down a proposed treatment plan for them simply because they could in no way afford the copay. In essence, care became more difficult to get.

ObamaCare also sought to assure that increased value was offered. This had multiple aspects, including patient satisfaction surveys, increased demands on providers to be fully “educated” through CME (more on this later), and increased demands of JCAHO. Patient satisfaction surveys were reported through what are called Press-Ganey scores. For employed physicians, bonuses were heavily dependent of the Press-Ganey scores. While Press-Ganey scores reflected how patients feel about their physician, it had minimal correlation with the competence of the physician. A physician that is the bearer of bad news, no matter how well it is delivered, will often be viewed with less favor than a physician bearing good news. Physicians oftentimes need to reprimand patients or cajole them into healthy behaviors, which is usually not viewed favorably by the patient. Some physicians are quite excellent, but do not have jovial personalities, which patients don’t like. Or, they have a jovial personality but are incompetent, something that a patient might not realize until it is too late. ObamaCare has allowed feelings to supplant honesty and truth, and the end-result will ultimately be disaster. Meanwhile, ObamaCare has flunked in its attempt to define quality in health care, and I’m not sure the ObamaCare act really cares about quality; they simply want the illusion that everybody is getting quality healthcare.

Are people truly having good coverage of their health care problems? The answer is complex, as there are a few people that have coverage that otherwise would have been out. Before government got involved in healthcare, most large cities and all counties had a county hospital that would take care of the indigent. Everybody ultimately received health care. Pharmaceutical firms were good about providing reduced rates on expensive drugs to the poor, and almost all people were able to survive. Now, coverage is actually worse, and many no longer have actual coverage of expensive treatments because they are responsible for a copay, which might be unaffordable. The only group of people who are better covered are those who should not have coverage, such as illegal aliens, or those who are mostly responsible for their own illness, such as burned out drug addicts.

Are the physicians getting rich? Definitely not! Over the last thirty years, physicians had to work harder and longer and more hours to make commensurate pay of the past. As a result, physician burn-out has become a true problem. The solution for physicians has been to become employed. I won’t belabor the problems of employed physicians, save to mention that employment essentially strips them of the definition of a true professional. They are nothing but expensive, sophisticated hired hands, and they will behave as such. People who serve administrative positions in health care are getting rich, and hospital CEOs as well the insurance companies are making out quite well. For the most part, physicians are getting poorer.

ObamaCare has not addressed the reason why healthcare is so expensive, and has diverted the attention from health care costs to health care availability. I am grateful that illegal aliens can receive the best health care in the world for free at my expense. In fact, I am waiting eagerly for anybody to provide an honest analysis of health care costs, and an explanation as to why health care costs in the US are much higher than in Europe or the rest of the world. I can think of many reasons, and simple explanations such as the absence of free markets deflects from serious analysis of costs, which has multifactorial roots.

Physician Regulations

The state has deemed it vital to make sure that physicians are competent. In order to define competence, the state has had to set some sort of prevailing standard, which is an amalgam of current practice and best practice recommendations based on the latest research. This assumes that best practice can be codified and then enforced. It assumes that current prevailing practice is the standard for all physicians and all patients,  and that our knowledge of disease pathology and physiological processes for disease are correct and well understood. Sadly, history is replete with countless times where the medical profession has been wrong and has had to eat their words. It is no wonder that much of what I had learned in training had to be unlearned as simply wrong. Medical practice is in constant change, and not necessarily in the correct direction. One dares not fight the system if the system is going in the wrong direction.

The state needs a way of making sure that physicians are keeping up with the latest and greatest developments in health care. The current standard is to require physician recertification, usually every ten years. The other is the requirement for continuing medical education, or CME. There are serious problems with both of these systems. For recertification, the physician needs to be placed in a box that defines who they are. These boxes are the selected specialties that the physician identifies with, whether that be in family practice, pathology, internal medicine, general surgery, or a host of other specialties. But, these specialties are too vaguely defined, such as in my specialty of general surgery. I am a surgical oncologist, and the American Board of Surgery only recently created a board specific for surgical oncology. Surgical oncology itself is heavily fragmented, between melanoma surgeons, breast surgeons, hepatobiliary surgeons, sarcoma surgeons, and a smattering of other organ specific surgeons. Within the last 20 yars, surgical oncology has essentially lost head and neck surgery, endocrine surgery, thoracic surgery, and colorectal surgery. True, one would like their surgical oncologist proficient in all aspects of cancer surgery, yet reality states otherwise. Regional referral patterns and practices also affect a surgeon’s expertise. Certain diseases are just more prevalent in some areas as compared to other areas of the county. In Chicago, I saw much pancreatic pathology. In Seattle, there is very little pancreatic disease, but a proliferation of other diseases. The truth is that as a professional, one is always reading and educating oneself, and each individual physician will develop a differing broad area of expertise. A simple test imposed by the state is not capable of defining what only the test of real life scenarios can clearly define. Recertification has become a horrid pain to take. I’ve re-certified twice, have done well in my re-certifications, but swore on the last re-certification that I would never do it again, ever, for any reason. Most physicians reach the same conclusions as I have, and the net result is to drive out the aged but experienced physicians. The only exception is in academia, where the surgeon is somewhat protected.

Keeping up with CME is a pain. It is not enough to simply subscribe to various specialty journals and read them on a regular basis. Now, one must answer sets to test questions to assure that you’d acquired the information attempted to be taught by the article. The Journal of the American College of Surgeons would do this for four articles each month, and I dutifully answered their questions for a number of years. About 2 years ago, I realized the stupidity of most of the questions, and how they were usually completely unrelated to my field of practice. The questions were intended to quiz whether you had read the article, but often assumed you had knowledge well beyond that of the article; thus, there was no education of the physician, and failure to judge whether I’ve read and learned from the article. The problem is compounded when articles relate to my own specialty, since I usually read into the question the controversies involved and uncertainty about the information in the article. The multiple guess questions really fail to assess my true knowledge of a subject, yet is mandated in order to assess whether I’m actually staying on top of my specialty. CME updates are demanded by the American Board of Surgery every three years, and I will be letting the next update slide.

Increasing surveillance of physician behavior is happening. This relates to both social behavior, as well as practice outcomes. Hospitals are simply not turning a blind eye to behaviors that would be publicly unacceptable. There has been a change from historical norms, where previously the physician acted mostly without accountability. This is a good thing, and physician antics with the treatment of patients, colleagues or nurses must be now accounted for. The only problem is that it is the hospital that is performing most of the policing, and they have a very strong bias for protecting themselves. Thus, there is predictably unfair judgement against unemployed physicians, and usually it is by someone clueless. I recall, for instance, being reprimanded by the chief medical officer at my hospital for not responding in person to an emergency room call, even though I was in the middle of a case in the operating room. I informed the CMO to no avail that it would be considered unethical and immoral by the American College of Surgeons for me to leave a patient open on the table to attend to another person. Such madness has only gotten worse under ObamaCare. Physicians are still held liable as “captains of the ship” yet are not given the power or authority to maintain that captainship. We are constantly being told to alter our behavior or practice in the most minute ways that have no real bearing on patient outcomes or hospital well-being. The focus has turned from outcomes to process, without any evidence-based data to suggest that behavior changes would be good.

The discussion of “captain of the ship” bears more intensely on issues of hierarchy within the hospital structure. Traditionally, physicians were the main drivers for hospital decisions, dominated the board of directors of a hospital, and were held as primarily responsible for the success or failure of the hospital. Now, responsibility falls to the CEO and his minion of subordinates, most of whom are not physicians, though they might be nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, or simple business types with no training in medicine. Because of the increasing commercialization of medicine, spread sheets and the color of the bottom line have become the most vital aspect at determining the survivability of a hospital. The physicians have silently gone from being the leaders of the hospital to being nothing but another cost center to be dealt with.

Documentation/HIPPA issues

Until recently, documentation was performed in paper charts, usually a combination of typed text and handwritten notes along with printed reports, lab work, and outside information. Marginal notes would be made in the chart to facilitate jogging the memory of the physician. A typical note would take a few minutes to write, but would be highly effective at documenting an encounter. With the rise of third party indemnification (insurance), the desire to have confirmation of services rendered demanded improved documentation. The saying, “If it isn’t documented, it wasn’t done” became the hallmark message for mass documentation. This led to automation of means of documenting, including boiler plating encounters and procedures. This naturally led to the reverse problem of the past, in that much “documentation” might not have ever been performed. Because boilerplating made possible getting information quicker into electronic format, and with the rise of improved databasing and need for distribution of data, the electronic medical record (EMR) saw its rise. What was once a convenience became a mandated necessity. Many payors no longer accept handwritten charts, and the federal reimbursement systems require EMR for full reimbursement. EMR systems are very expensive, not only to implement, but also to maintain. They solve the problem of a plethora of charts and storage of these charts, as well as issues of lost charts, and the need for multiple simultaneous access to these charts. The down side is harder to see but more destructive. With a combination of requirement for increased documentation, and through the use of boiler plating, excess information now exists, and it is quite challenging to quickly identify the relevant information on a patient. Because of multiple sources for input to the EMR and restricted ability of access users to correct faulty information, the EMR slowly becomes less and less reliable. Errors become quite plentiful, from basic patient information, to diagnoses, medications and treatments.

Meanwhile, privacy of the data has become a greater concern. Physicians were instructed not to talk about patients in the elevator with outside people present, or to share patient data with people outside of the immediate family, unless given permission by the patient. Now, privacy has become a fanatical issue. In the past, I would walk onto a ward, and at the nurses station, a chalkboard list of all the patients and their room number was present. At the door of each room, the patient(s) name(s) were again posted, allowing for re-identification of the patient. This doesn’t happen any more, all in the name of patient privacy. The problem is that it is now easier to confuse or mix up patients, and more errors occur because of that.

Privacy in electronic data is a greater issue. The need for highly secure servers to manage patient data has become the norm, all mandated by HIPPA (federal policy). Yet, the skill of hackers has not been thwarted from obtaining any private patient data that they wish. True privacy is a myth, but the expense that we go through to maintain this illusion of privacy is astronomical. Indeed, true privacy is impossible. Perhaps all patients should present themselves to the physicians office or hospital in full covering like a Burqua or KKK outfit? Yet, the one area where privacy is zilch is with the government. They now know EVERYTHING about you. I fear the government more than I fear some stranger knowing that I happen to be on a β-blocker or some other medication. Yet, the feds have access to every aspect of my health care record.

Big Pharma

I don’t view big pharma as an intrinsic evil, and much of their perceived evil comes from government and legal policy imposed upon them. There is no doubt that the large equipment and pharmaceutical firms have vastly improved the quality of healthcare in our country, as well as throughout the world. It is without a doubt that drugs exist and are available today that never would have been possible without these large companies. But, the large pharmaceutical and equipment firms comes at a terrible cost to all of us.

The large pharmaceutical firms must deal with a host of regulatory agencies, the FDA being the largest of them. One would think that big pharma would be fighting the FDA tooth and nail, yet the opposite is the case. The pharmaceutical firms have seen the FDA as a wonderful means of keeping out smaller competition, which is why you don’t see small pharmaceutical firms in this country. The assistance of the FDA in the assault on the nutritional supplement and vitamin industry is shameful. Big pharma has relished the protection to their industry by the FDA, leading them to become even more powerful at controlling the drug market. Concomitantly, we see larger firms buying up the smaller pharmaceutical firms, and thus becoming ever more powerful.

A secondary problem is created when insurers pay for medication costs, so that the consumer never sees those costs. This becomes problematic if a patient is unable to perform a cost-benefit relationship to determine whether a drug is worth taking. A perfect example are the statin drugs to lower cholesterol. I wait eager to see any statin demonstrate improved survival over the best alternative therapies out there. Statins have a high chance of significant side effects, yet has never been shown to be significantly effective at preventing death from atherosclerotic heart disease. And, they are expensive drugs. Too often, the patient assumes that the physician is using critical judgement in determining the need for a drug, yet the greatest determinant tends to be how good of lunch the drug representative brings to the doctor’s office.

Insurance

A system of third party payment for health care has created the worst possible solution for healthcare. It is a serious misnomer to title health insurance as such, since it does not operate like insurance, but simply as a mode of funding. Insurance supposedly should be most active when there is an acute need, such as with a car accident or a heart attack or a new diagnosis of cancer. Instead, it covers every possible aspect of health care, including runny noses in kids to health maintenance examinations. Under ObamaCare, health insurance is not an optional decision, but mandated by the state. In such a situation, you would expect the health care insurers to making out quite well, and for the most part, they are, with executives of the major insurance companies making exorbitant profits. Yet, there are strains on the system. Insurance is not able to reign in the ever-rising cost of health care, and can only raise premiums and copays to a limit before the system breaks. And, the system is about to break.

Ultimately the big winners in todays system are the insurance companies, but that is a bittersweet win, as they continue to merge with other systems in order to survive. Time will ultimately pass a severe judgement on insurance companies.

Legal Aspects

If you read the popular press, they would suggest that legal issues are a small portion of what’s “broken” in medicine. Whenever malpractice tort reform becomes a subject of referendum up for vote for the public, the advertisements and press attest to litigation being a small part of costs for doing medicine. Yet, those most entrenched in the health care system and actually paying attention what is going on realize that legal aspects of medicine are probably our worst enemy, and that politicians and lawyers who know little of the actual functioning of healthcare are essentially orchestrating how things should be done in the health care world. If a physician suggests changes in the legal world, lawyers tend to attack the physician as ignorant, befuddled, or clueless as to how law actually works. Perhaps outsiders see the legal world a little more clearly than lawyers? Yet, it is most true that lawyers and political meddling in the world of medicine have only left medicine far worse off.

When a physician attends conferences, there are numerous sessions offered on how to avoid or deal with lawsuits. It is made very clear that the physician should understand that everybody gets sued, and that a lawsuit often is the “luck of the draw”, and that a physician should never take a lawsuit personally. Yet, in court, it is presented as just the opposite, and the claim is that there is something wrong with the physician that caused the medical “error”. I place the word error in quotes because it is too often that an error is not an error at all but simply the course of the disease. The lawyer presents a disease process as an entirely controllable phenomenon, and that good outcomes will happen when the standard of care is closely followed. Of course, they will deny this mentality until they are in court, where acts of “nature” serve to reward the lawyer quite generously. In public referenda regarding tort reform, there are usually two most serious claims. The first is that bad physicians need to be punished in order to improve the system. This goes contrary to all evidence yet seen. The second claim is that the tort system preserves patient rights. In actual practice, it does just the opposite, and patients end up with less options and choices in their care because of the malpractice climate which physicians and hospitals have to work in.

Whenever a referendum for tort reform hits the public, the claim defending current practice is that malpractice claims are actually decreasing and that malpractice premiums continue to be less expensive on the physician. Especially after a referendum, this is briefly the case, until the public forgets about matters, after which lawyers come back in force, hungry for more litigation. The malpractice situation has not improved, but remains a crapshoot, where a physician remains highly likely, no matter how excellent they are as a physician, to get sued and lose. The tragedy is that physicians can oftentimes see colleagues that truly are dangerous and yet manage to avoid suits. Cases that hit the public scene are often the most revealing. A few years ago, the leading transplant center in the USA made an error in typing an organ, leading to a hefty lawsuit. But, to what avail? This transplant center defined excellence in care for their service. Does human error necessitate lottery type outcomes for the lawyers and unfortunate patient? That is what happened in the transplant error to a distinguished center of excellence. There are many more similar stories.

What about if the legal profession is eventually proven to be wrong? Do they refund their ill-gotten gains then? I recall the colossal sums won against Dow Corning for the silicone breast implant lawsuit. Not very long later, it was proven beyond doubt that the manufacture of the implant or the nature of silicone did not lead to the alleged autoimmune diseases that the lawsuit purported to have happened. In this situation, the funds should have been returned, at least in part. This only shows that truth and justice are not served in courts of law, and the legal system has no interest in pursuing what is right.

My claim that litigation raises cost of everything is quite easily supported. Think about matters for a brief second. When you stay overnight in the hospital, with minimal attention rendered to you, you could expect a bill for upwards from $20K. I cannot think of any but the most exclusive hotels in the world that would even approach a fraction of that cost, even with servants and the most lavish attention. Why does it cost so much? Medications that are sold for veterinary use typical cost under 10% of what they charge for exactly the same medication with adults. Why? Medical equipment tends to be quite unreasonable in cost compared to similar products in the non-medical market. Oftentimes it is absurd, from a simple little staple gun costing several hundred dollars which if sold as a non-medical item would be several dollars. Why? Incorporated in those costs are both the higher cost of development for the human market, and the potential for litigation. Cows don’t sue, but people do. Yet, there are other subtle cost drivers. Physicians assuredly often act against their best judgement by over-ordering tests and x-rays, and over-treating, all in an effort to protect themselves against litigation. The patient is not given a choice in the matter, or allowed to assume risk. This is because with informed consent, it is still assumed in court that physicians should know better and not have offered choices to the patient if one choice was not assumed to be “standard-of-care”. The physician can’t win, and so plays the game by following the rules, even when the rules are wrong or don’t make sense.

JCAHO

This actually belongs in the “government interference” paragraphs, since the JCAHO is a government organization. Yet, it is so pervasive to all aspects of healthcare, with such overreaching influence on the way medicine is practiced, that it deserves a category of its own. As I write this, my hospital is currently undergoing a JCAHO inspection, and the anxiety of the administration is sky high. They have come by, and declared how various improvements must be made, how there are defects to the system which has so capably served patients. In essence, they are fixing “issues” that are not problems, never were a problem, and never will be a problem. Typically, the fixes are expensive, time consuming, but also require extensive documentation to prove that the fix is actually implemented by the hospital.

One of the most troubling changes in recent years has already be discussed, which are regulations imposed by HIPAA in order to preserve patient privacy. Sadly, HIPAA has failed to recognize that if somebody wishes to bust into the system, it can be done regardless of how intense the security measures are applied to the electronics of the system. The result is the physicians can no longer speak easily with each other about a patient’s care, and the detriment is ultimately to the patient.

JCAHO has long filled any possible useful purpose for itself. Yet, it has become a burgeoning business that must be sustained at all cost. Thus, they have sought desperately to find ways of justifying their own existence. They have accomplished that by creating new and novel regulations each year which they impose on hospitals. They will review hospitals every third year, and if sufficient inadequacies are found, will return a year after their visit to review the hospital for correcting their “mistakes”. During the triennial visit, they will disclose the new regulations, holding the hospital immediately responsible to correct their behaviors and adapt to the regulations. This causes a fleury of anxiety, panic, and hasty development of new hospital policies to match the new regulations. One year, they decided that if a patient was placed in restraints (usually in the ICU), then the order for that had to be renewed weekly. This had never before been a problem, and when there were restraint problems, they were of a nature that a policy would not fix. Another year, it was decided that used instruments or laundry could not be transported to their appropriate destiny in an open environment but had to be completely enclosed. One could hypothesize that bacteria could be spread with these instruments and laundry in open air, yet there has never been an instance where this had ever been a problem. The fix is indeed costly, and must be done in order for a hospital to continue operations. But, the hallway transportation rule defies notion that the hallway itself or the patient room could be transmitting disease between patients. Perhaps the entire hospital needs to be systematically sterilized between patients?

But, JCAHO will continue to work their evil deeds. Health care will become more complex, impersonal, and expensive, and ultimately, less safe. JCAHO is an organization that holds others responsible, but submits to nobody else’s authority. It is a true creature from the black lagoon.

Commercialization of Healthcare

It used to considered immoral for physicians or hospitals to advertise. Pharmaceutical firms were forbidden to advertise prescription products to the public. The American Medical Association held policies forbidding their members from advertising, as found in their code of ethics. The goal for these rules was to keep medicine out of the realm of commercial enterprise. All of that changed in the year 1975, when the federal trade commission considered the AMA policy as an illegal restraint of trade. The AMA rolled over dead. What was immoral one day was considered right and proper the next day. Advertising among health care emerged slowly. Early in my private practice, there was a rule that physicians in our community would not advertise, or even to have their name in bold print in the yellow pages. That disappeared slowly. Soon, one could see a plethora of drug advertising, with elderly patients in perfect health dancing vigorously across the tv screen, proclaiming the miraculous benefits and health giving effects of a medication with multiple side effects and toxicities. A few little lies won’t hurt, would they?

The end result of healthcare commercialization is that it has caused anybody and everybody to seek for a portion of the health care dollar. The highest paid person in a medical community is often the CEO of the hospital. While hospitals still designate themselves as “not for profit”, the non-profit hospital has gone the way of the dodo bird. Quite often, the most vigorously trained physician taking the greatest risks and responsibilities get the least cut of the health care dollar. The pharmaceutical and medical equipment suppliers are making massive profits unheard of in yesteryear.

One could argue that commercialization has led to improved competition and desire for innovation. Yet, competition has always occurred in health care, and innovation has also taken a great toll on our profession, not commensurate with the benefits offered. The most heavily advertised physicians are oftentimes the most marginal physicians. It would be hard to argue that patients are truly better off with advertising. For the reader interested in a erudite discussion of this issue, please read this article… https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2563279/ .

The Flexner Report and its Evil children

The Flexner report was funded by the Carnegie foundation, supporting Abraham Flexner in a review of the existing medical schools in the early 20th century. The report was published in 1910, and intended on promoting standardization of medical education and the removal of marginal medical schools. We now see the evil children of the Flexner report, with regulation of the health care professions at an unprecedented level. The net effect we have had on physicians is increased regulation and requirement for continuing education, which was previously discussed. It has restricted the number of physicians in the health care community, and medical schools have not been able to keep up with the demand, especially in an age where increasing numbers of physicians retire early. It is difficult to just build more medical schools, since the cost of medical education is prohibitively expensive, and the state has had to bear part of the burden of these costs in order to keep the supply of physicians at adequate numbers.

There have been several ways in which the health care community has met the demand. First is through the influx of ever greater numbers of foreign medical graduates (FMG’s) from countries where health care education is not so aggressively monitored. The second is the rise of alternative providers, which include physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Both of these groups of providers have much shorter training periods, which would fail the current minimal standards for medical school training as defined by the results of the Flexner report. In essence, the Flexner report has forced its own extinction, and bred an alternative to the physician.

Conclusion

I am not unhappy that I ever became a physician, and feel that it has been a rewarding career. I am very unhappy with what has happened to medicine. It is like a public good has been stolen and no hope for recovery.

I am particularly sad that most people do not identify root causes for problems, but continually ask for immediate, self-serving, quick fixes to the health care problem. It is a truism that until congress and all of government has to live under the same health care plan that they impose on others, there will be no hope for improvement. I wouldn’t count on it ever happening in my lifetime.

Ultimately, health care will kill itself. It is unsustainable. It has lost its soul. Its original driving force was a Judeo-Christian Weltanschauungen, specifically, the belief that all people, young and old, born and unborn, of all races and creeds, were created in God’s image and of intrinsic value. Humans were not viewed as the accidental product of the primordial slime. Human relations were viewed as important as health itself. Suffering had meaning, which oftentimes led patients to delay in seeking a remedy. Pleasure and euphoria (feeling good) were not considered goals of worthy pursuit. Among health care professionals, the pursuit of “health” and prolongation of life seem to be more in line with personal challenges and a game to be played, the chance of honor for a great discovery, rather than the sympathetic concern for the whole person, body and soul. Purpose and meaning in life are oriented around maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain and suffering. Healthcare is the agent responsible for restoring maximal pleasure, either to the individual or to the community, when things go mentally or physically wrong. The greatest creed of healthcare, the Hippocratic Oath, provided the framework for practicing our profession. Without either a framework or a direction, we flounder. Healthcare, rather than being a true profession, becomes the utility of the state to maintain function and order, rather than the pursuit of a higher good. We have lost our soul in medicine. I am leaving medicine because my profession no longer is a profession of Hippocratic orientation. I have no interest in being a duped servant of an evil state.

Presbyterianism vs Anabaptism

March 31st, 2017

The quirks of Presbyterianism

in relation to my Anabaptist roots

My wife and I are religious schizophrenics—we are deeply rooted in both the Presbyterian and Anabaptist traditions. These traditions seem to be polar opposites, though in many ways, the opposite is true. I would like to briefly explore my thoughts on their similarities and differences.

History

My wife and I grew up in the Apostolic Christian Church (ACCA [Apostolic Christian Church in America] and ACCN [Apostolic Christian Church Nazarean]), which are actually two denominations of the Amish-Mennonite Anabaptist tradition that split in the early twentieth century. It is a denomination, in spite of their quirks, that is still dearly loved by me. I consider myself as having a world view shaped by their teaching, notably that of fervor for God’s word, of intense love for the Brethren (which is a non-sexist word and includes females), and anti-militarism. For various pragmatic reasons, our family attended Moody Church while we were living in Chicago, Illinois when I was in surgery residency, a church we also dearly loved, especially with the preaching of pastor Irwin Lutzer. We attended a Baptist church while I was in the Air Force in Biloxi, MS, and really did not like it at all. There was a PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) church in town, but did not attend there because we felt the Presbyterians were heretics and totally off base. It was during my time in Biloxi that I started reading intensely on Dispensationalism versus Reformed theology, and became convinced that Reformed theology (Calvinism, if you wish), had a more consistent approach to Scripture in its entirety than either Dispensational or Anabaptist theology. I also realized that the description of “Calvinism” by Anabaptists and Dispensationalists was entirely in error. On moving to Puyallup, WA, we attended a generic Christian church for a little over a year. I absolutely hated it for its irreverent worship style and weak theology. On recommendation of a close colleague at the hospital, our family broke down and started attending Faith Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, WA, a member of the Presbyterian Church in America denomination. The pastor was the son of the first president of Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, and well acquainted with Francis Schaeffer. He was a large drawing point for us. We have been there ever since, with no plans of leaving. We had never formally left the Apostolic Christian Church, and have no idea whether they still consider us to be “members”. Our departure was more by incidence of our life’s journey, rather than a formal choice to leave the ACCN. Thus, my wife and I still consider ourselves to be a part of both worlds.

Comparisons of Anabaptist/Reformed theology

Theology was the driving force for leaving the generic church and going to a church that has Reformed doctrine. Contrary to many thinkers, Calvinism is everything but “once saved, always saved”. This is especially true of the covenantal manifestations of Calvinism. In fact, what is portrayed as Calvinism and what is the true meaning of Reformed doctrine are unrecognizable. I’ll offer several examples. Perseverance of the saints as a doctrine means that the saints will persevere in holiness. It never was intended to mean that a person could never “lose” their salvation, except for that if one is truly saved, they will persist in holiness. The discussable issue on this topic for both Anabaptists and Reformed thinkers relates to assurance of salvation, even though arguments for assurance will follow different lines of thought. Both Anabaptists and Reformed thinkers share the necessity for godly living. A second topic of contention is that of limited atonement, which is a terrible phase that means particular redemption. Most Reformed thinkers advocate a universal calling, and bona fide offer of the gospel for all. The only realm of contention regarding particular redemption is that the Reformed thinkers will say that Christ’s death was EFFICACIOUS only for the saved, something that even Anabaptists would ultimately agree with, unless they hold to the doctrine of ultimate universal salvation for all. The doctrine of total depravity would be an area of contention between Anabaptists and Reformed thinkers that would not be resolvable. Oddly, this is not an issue commonly fought over. Nobody wishes to consider themselves to be Pelagian, so one will usually default to a semi-Pelagian position regarding total depravity, which in my thinking is a most confused approach to depravity. As GK Chesterton has noted, total depravity is the one and only doctrine which is easily verifiable in real life.

The baptism of infants is a point of contention with Anabaptists which is usually terribly misunderstood. Baptism is considered neither a confirmation of salvation nor a witness to the world of salvation. Rather, it, like circumcision, is a representation of a covenant with God.  This covenant has both promises as well as obligations. Much of the obligation is on the parents to raise their children as Christians, and duly expect them to make a profession of faith throughout their life. Many non-Reformed churches have a dedication ceremony which is neither Scriptural or meaningful, save for trying to imitate the ceremony of infant baptism. In terms of when a person actually becomes a Christian, the Reformed doctrine refuses to define a precise method. In fact, virtually every New Testament conversion that is discussed is different. Some children of believers may be converted in utero, others in childhood, others after a period of sinful life, and others never. The point is that the Christian will always need to persist in their profession of faith until death.

Some of the ramifications of the doctrine of predestination may be troubling to the Anabaptist until they give worthy pause to what is actually being said. Predestination most certainly is NOT fatalism, i.e., that the course of history has been set in motion in which nothing will change. I would refer the reader to J.I. Packers’ “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God” to grasp this issue. It is certain that we are both totally determined yet totally free in our decisions and actions. The explanation for this remains in the divine wisdom of God which cannot be explained. Finally, I wish to note that when one looks at both the Anabaptists and Reformed churches, there are multiple splits numbering in the hundreds to thousands. Most of these splits are related to some subtle doctrinal issue which presents itself as irreconcilable to the church leaders. Even in my lifetime, I’ve seen a number of splits in churches (both Apostolic Christian and PCA) that are inexplainable save for our persisting depravity.

Both the Reformed and Anabaptist traditions are quite intense about their theology and hold it of great importance. The Reformed thinkers have approached theology in a more systematic fashion, and win out in terms of have a more consistent and organized theological base. Unfortunately, the Reformed church knows this, and it tends to breed a very strong sense of arrogance on their part for having “the best” doctrine. The Reformed folk also manifest a sense of divisiveness in their theology, discussed kindly in a recent internet article by John Frame (http://frame-poythress.org/machens-warrior-children/). This article discusses 21 topics that are highly divisive in the PCA church—I think that he is kind, and under-estimates divisive issues, and I mean divisive enough that various groups would hold charges of heresy against contrary thinking. I have seen Presbyterians approach theology with such opinionated aggressive as to wonder if they were not terminally constipated. A recent move in the PCA condemning the theology of federal vision had a vitriol of extreme proportions, yet one had a challenge even defining what one meant by federal vision!

Anabaptists also excel in divisiveness, and there are countless sub-factions of Amish, Mennonites and the like. This Anabaptist divisiveness can either be theological (like a recent ACCA split debating whether or not a Christian could/does sin) or practical (like whether it is permissible to grow beards or have lightning rods on your house). In the Anabaptist circle that I grew up in, theology was a constant discussion. Our discussions as kids were quite crude and seriously misinformed, but we took theology quite seriously and it was a typical subject of discussion when we would get together. I don’t see that fervor in the Reformed church youth—after all, since they hold the “correct” theology, by bother discussing it?

Church polity/discipline

While this may sound strange, both the Reformed and Anabaptist traditions tend toward the Presbyterian model of polity, in contrast to the Congregational or Episcopalian models. Anabaptists do not generally have a paid clergy, though there are exceptions to this rule. Yet, there are central Anabaptist structures, and national meetings of the elders that are akin to the annual presbytery/synod meetings that occur in Reformed circles. The interest of both traditions is to maintain commonalities in theology and worship that define the denomination. To the surprise of Anabaptists, the conservative Reformed denominations (such as the PCA) take church discipline very seriously, and do exercise member expulsion for various sins or absence of repentance. The terms of expulsion or other forms of church discipline differ, but yet there is a very strong sense of the necessity of the church to exercise discipline of its members, and preach the value of a godly lifestyle in all things.

Worship style

The similarities between Anabaptist and Reformed worship is greater than their differences. Both hold a very high estimation of worship and formality in their church meetings. This is true, even though the Anabaptists do everything possible to remove distinctive display elements to their worship, including the display of crosses in church, the wearing of special garments by the ministry, or other outward displays. Oddly, Anabaptist members usually are required to have special garments, such as specially defined head coverings for females, and distinct dress for men. The Anabaptists would never call their service a “high-church” style, yet it has a formality and regulation that is uniform and consistent between churches and enduring through the years. Both Anabaptist and Reformed thinkers have an equal problem with the current contemporary worship service, which consists of worship as entertainment.

Music

The Reformed churches would love to think that they have the great advantage in music. In this regard, they are sorely wrong. As a matter of fact, Presbyterians simply cannot sing. It is true that many Reformed members go on to become professional musicians and that musical instrumentation in the church is of high value. Many Anabaptist churches, including the ACCA denomination which my parents came out of, never even used a keyboard in their services. Yet, I would estimate that most Anabaptist members had home musical training, and greater than 90% were able to sing in 4 part harmony during worship services. They would stay on tune, even singing a cappella. If you examine closely their hymnody, the Anabaptists mostly drew on the German Lutheran/Bach choral tradition, with far more complex harmonies and melodies than could ever be found in a Reformed/Presbyterian congregational hymnal. In addition, the Anabaptists would sing those songs quite well. Playing or singing the ACC hymnal (Zion’s Harp) is far more challenging than playing or singing the PCA Trinity Hymnal. The Presbyterians are slightly more cautious regarding good theology in their songs, but even there, the ACC hymnal has much better tunes for praise, consecration of one’s life, the afterlife, suffering, and general worship than any Reformed Hymnal. The British and Scots just were not as artful in music as the Germans!

Fellowship

In the Anabaptist family, one feels like family. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world. If you encounter another “AC”, you might as well consider yourself a real brother or sister. You are always welcome in their home, as you would welcome them into your home. Much of your free time would be spent at church or with fellow AC’s. The Presbyterians also maintain a sense of community, but no where near the intensity that is found in traditional AC circles. It is common in Anabaptist communities to see them going out of their way to care for each other. An example are the nursing homes that the ACC’s have developed in conjunction with their churches. These serve several uses. First, they care for the debilitated elderly while keeping them out of the ward of the state. Secondly, they allow elderly in the nursing homes to be useful and active, rather than simply shuttering them in. It is a shame that Reformed churches cannot develop such a modality—I presume that they are in fear of “offending” the state or its ordinances.

The fellowship among Anabaptists extends in other ways. Most of the brethren of the AC church could be assumed to be “trustable”. By that, I mean that if there were business contracts or other dealings that transpired among two brothers in the AC denomination, even if the agreement was verbal and not in print, one could assume that the agreement would be faithfully adhered to. It is not the case in the Presbyterian world, and though members all consider themselves as Christian and adhering to the laws of God, your probability of integrity among the “faithful” in the Presbyterian church isn’t much higher than you’d find from somebody randomly picked from the telephone directory or pulled off the street. Indeed it is a sad state of affairs when professing Christians are no different than the world.

Influence in the world/Politics

The Anabaptists tend to stay out of politics. Yet, a number of its sons do go into politics, such as one of the long-standing senators from Illinois who grew up in an ACCA home. The first Presbyterian politician of great acclaim also shamefully happened to be among our worst presidents—Woodrow Wilson. America would have been better off without Presbyterians in government. Presbyterians have served as a positive influence in society, the best example being that of Francis Schaeffer, though often his actions were at odds with those of the Presbyterian church, explaining why he tended to act independent of any Presbyterian mission board. To this date, Presbyterian actions in politics frighten me. While I appreciate their willingness to act as salt and light in the world, and influence the political structure for good, many of the actions of devout Presbyterians have been more detrimental than good on society. I wait pensively for how Donald Trump proves to be as president since he states that he is Presbyterian—his saving grace might be that he is despised by many prominent Presbyterians of both the conservative and liberal stripes. Contrariwise, the action of Anabaptists have also been a touch problematic in that they have not been willing to confront society in the public square and speak truth. Their policy of “letting the world go to hell as we will maintain our private devotion to God” might absolve them from taking a stand for truth and righteousness in the public square, but their failure to speak out will be ruled against them at the last judgement. In my final analysis, I will act like a Presbyterian in the public square, but will shy away from getting political advice from the Presbyterians and vote like a traditional Apostolic Christian.

Summary

My wife and I are caught between two worlds. We love our Anabaptist heritage, and we love our current Presbyterian situation. We see both the best and the worst of both worlds, and see neither as distinctly superior to the other. I could not have had a better time growing up in the ACCN denomination in Portland, Oregon. It nurtured me well in the faith. Yet, we remain most happy in my current situation in the PCA church. We have a beloved and wonderful pastor, our faith has grown steadily under his preaching, and doctrinally we’ve been challenged and grown in ways which never could have happened in nearly other setting. Thus, we feel doubly blessed.

In a previously quoted article, John Frame speaks at length about ceasing quibbling about petty doctrinal and behavior issues in the church. It is a plea for Christian charity and humility among other Christians. I saw this in action when I took a class in systematic theology from JI Packer, experiencing  graciousness of abounding proportions when angrily challenged and confronted on touchy topics in class. I wish that I could manifest the spirit of Dr. Packer! Francis Schaeffer also wrote much about Christians fighting among each other, and his book “The Mark of a Christian” emphasized that as important as doctrine and behavior may be, love for each other needs to shine out strongest.

We will remain Presbyterian for now, but our hearts (and hopefully our behavior) are Anabaptist. Without a doubt, in heaven, these issues will all work out, and we will not have to take sides as Catholic, Anabaptist, Generic Protestant, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reformed, Anglican, Baptist, or Orthodox. Christ isn’t divided, and I pray that the church would seek more the spirit of unity in Christ than of obscure technical differences.

Trump: The Art of the Deal

November 30th, 2016

trump

Trump: The Art of the Deal, by Donald J. Trump and Tony Schwartz ★★★★

I received this autographed hardback copy before Donald was elected president, and read it in spurts after that. The book’s value is in giving one an insight into how Trump thinks.  The book was written in 1987, and starts with a review of one week in his life, ending with a follow-up of what became of the decisions of that week. The intervening chapters are a limited autobiography of the man, starting from childhood, through his schooling, and then summarizing his early big deals up to 1987. The details of his wheeling-dealing is not terribly interesting save for realizing a few things. 1. Seeing how Trump makes decisions. He always looks for people that he could trust, and who are the best in the business. His biggest admiration is for people of integrity. 2. Seeing how politics affects the most mundane things in life, and how Trump was able to use as well as was hindered by politics. 3. Seeing how bumbling so many other business executives were. There were many examples of very poor decision making, not just in government real estate projects, but also in private interest projects that should never have gone wrong, but did.

This book is of value to read in order to understand the way in which Trump makes decisions. He is neither conservative nor liberal. He is not Republican or Democrat, his religious leaning is toward Christian predominance, and he is not an extreme moralist (or immoralist–he neither smokes nor drinks). Donald is very much a pragmatist, that tends to set goals and hold to those goals. He is not an ideologue, though tends to have guiding principles. He is a great negotiator who is used to holding his cards close to himself, which might irk the ever-snooping main stream media and liberals. He has a strong tendency toward honest success, which we will probably see in the next four years.

My spin on the presidential campaign-12MAR16 update

March 12th, 2016

24FEB2016

The campaign season is now in full force, and opinions flow freely about who will be our next emperor. The news media is quite busy at their subtle but fake “unbiased” spin as to who would be best.

Even Ron Paul, whom I voted for the last four elections, offers his opinion in which no candidate merits his support. This is all fine and dandy, save that some candidates are the “lesser of evils”, a write-in or blank vote will be worthless, and there is a sense in which some candidates would be truly intolerable. Thus, Ron Paul playing ostrich will not work in this election cycle for presidency.

The press has taken another stance. Headlines speak of “angry voters going for Trump”. Does the press really believe that Trump fans are more angry than Col. Sanders fans or Cruz fans? Do they interpret any sort of cool-headed rejection of the Republicrat Party as anger? How many buildings have angry Trump supporters destroyed, how many cars have been destroyed or street riots engendered with much human bodily injury?  If the press would like to see real anger, try revisiting Ferguson or Baltimore.

There is the milquetoast mass who would vote for Hillarious or Rubio, and certainly the press and Republican National committee seem to make Rubio the clear-cut choice for the Republican nominee, and the DNC and press with Hillarious for Democratic nominee. This is the New York Times stance. Why would I take advice from the most liberal rag in America that intends to indoctrinate the American public?

Fear mongering has been the approach of both Republicans and Democrats. Special interests drive select candidates, as the Feminazi influence in advocating for Hillarious. The press would like us to believe that Trump appeals to the less intelligent and under-educated masses, based on a comment by Trump that the less educated masses love him. The logic of concluding that his statement that “ONLY” the uneducated masses love him defies my sane reasoning.

So, I march through the available candidates for president looking at the pros and cons for each of the active candidates. I left out Vermin Supreme, but then, I decided that I really have no use for a free pony (google or u-tube search Vermin Supreme if you have no clue as to what I’m talking about).

Hillarious:
Con:
1. She’s an inveterate liar and never to be trusted.
2. She’s a war monger who will get us worse into war than Obama has done. We will probably see conflict with either China or Russia during the reign of Empress Hillarious.
3. She’s a part of the established Republicrat regime, and would continue business as usual.
4. We don’t need a Clinton dynasty. They’ve done enough trouble while Billy was in office. I don’t forget the lengthy list of scandals and offenses that occurred during his reign, many with Hillarious in collusion.
5. She has poor health and she is old, benefited only by massive use of make-up. Her VP would probably soon be president.
6. She is allied to too many special interests, such as the Feminazi interests, the gay/lesbian/trans-sexual interests, etc., Goldman Sachs and Wall Street, for a short list.
7. I don’t want a lesbian as president.
Pro:
Absolutely none

Col. Sanders
Con:
1. A socialist by any name is still a socialist. The banks are already teetering to unmitigated collapse, though we don’t know when. The Colonel will only accelerate that ultimate collapse.
2. He’s a fake. He could have voted his heart and supported the audit of the fed bill in the senate, but did not. I don’t trust him.
3. He is really old. I suspect that he is also partially senile. We’ll have a situation like the end of the Woodrow Wilson years, where a presidential advisor essentially runs the nation.
4. His solutions never have a basis is serious reality, whether it be economic solutions, public policy solutions, or foreign policy solutions.
5. His past life was miserably anti-American, which he needs to make account for.
6. The guy was a useless parasite on society before he got into politics, not even holding a job until he was 40 years old. He would remain a useless parasite if he became president.
Pro:
1. He sees the problem of America’s monetary system, and wants to do something about it. He clearly sees the corrupt banking system, the problem of the Federal Reserve, and how Wall Street is about as anti-American as ISIS or Obama.
2. He seems to have a shred of integrity.

Ben Carson
Con:
1. He has minimal familiarity with politics. He would be a lamb among wolves.
2. He doesn’t have a “leadership” persona.
3. He would involve America in war in other countries.
4. He hasn’t expressed a comprehensive stand on many matters of concern.
5. He would not make a great president but would  otherwise be fantastic in Washington on whoever’s cabinet.
Pro:
1. He is probably the smartest candidate, Republican or Democrat. Honestly, he is frankly brilliant.
2. He is  Negro and unlike our current “black-white Mulato” president, and so would very certainly start bringing a correction to race issues in the USA.
3. His integrity and morality are completely impeccable, regardless of accusations of his opponents and the press.
4. He stands first among all the candidates in being a gentleman and man of honor.

Marco Rubio
Con:
1. He would perpetuate and exacerbate the current immigration problem. He would do a terrible job with America’s borders.
2. He tends to be a “company man”, and would march to the beat of the Republicrat regime. It would mean politics as usual.
3. His policies are pseudo-conservative. This might garner liberal votes, but then, if one wishes to vote liberal, feel the Bern.
4. His public persona is awful. He looks like a little kid. He is nigh brain dead in his speeches. He will need a teleprompter just like the Bummer.
Pro:
1. This is a tough one, but he does have some conservative leanings regarding economic issues.
2. He has a reasonable morality. I find it odd that so many presidential candidates come to Jesus during the campaign year, making professions of faith that they could have said before hand but strangely did not.
3. He clearly sees that our current president is super-bad. I think he repeated that 4 times in a recent debate.

Ted Cruz
Con:
1. His public persona is horrible.
2. He doesn’t do the best job at selecting the people around him, a good example being his campaign manager
3. His policy stances regarding foreign wars, economics, domestic issues are weak.
4. If running against either of the democratic candidates, he will lose. The press will make mince meat of him.
5. He would make an absolutely superb Supreme court justice.
Pro:
1. He has good, solid policies on many issues, especially regarding immigration/border issues.
2. In spite of what the press and RNC tried to do to smear him, he is a man of integrity.
3. He is willing to stand up for what is right and speak out when there is a wrong or an injustice, even if it may mean political harm. His action of calling many of the lead Republicans liars was both truthful and proper.

Donald Trump
Con:
1. He is a novice in politics
2. He seems to be taking strong stances and expressing opinions which are often contrary to what he was saying just a few years ago. True, even President Reagan was originally a liberal, but Trump has not had the time to prove to the public that he really has mended his ways and thinking.
3. He has every reason to be self-serving as president.
4. He has a terrible grasp on the constitution. He will approach his job (similar to Obama) more as Führer than as a constitutional president.
5.  If elected president, there is a high chance that some liberal nitwit will assassinate him. (some people might put this in the “Pro” column).
Pro:
1. The press and established Republican Regime hate him, which means he is probably all right.
2. You usually don’t need to worry about him speaking his mind.
3. He seems to be the most outspoken about standing up for USA interests
4. He will not get us involved in crazy and expensive foreign wars without assuring ourselves a benefit from those wars.
5. He is the most clear about fixing the immigration issues. Above all, he understands that “illegal” in the phrase “illegal alien” does not mean anything but the plain reading of the words. It certainly does NOT mean undocumented workers.
6. He has some grasp of economics and would probably look out for the “little guy” in business.
7. He is VERY clear on other important issues, such as terminating ObamaCare as soon as he gets into office.
8. He’ll have Hillarious behind bars, where she belongs.
9. From his life in the business world, I suspect that he would be adept at recruiting competent men around him.
10. He generates very strong reactions from many of my friends about how dangerous he would be as president, accusing him of being a chameleon that will be a different color in office. I interpret those strong reactions (from even the friends that I trust) as all the more reason to vote for him. I find it intriguing that such notable characters as Pat Buchanan (whose opinions I always respect) and Ann Coulter (who I tend to agree with even though I detest her persona, and besides, she’s a damn lawyer), and Alex Jones (a very strange character but who usually gets it right) are all in favor of Trump (at least, at this time).
11. He is not a lawyer. We need a government with more people than just lawyers and political science majors. Lawyers and political scientists have the worst grasp on truth of anybody I know, and which I always count as a strike against them.

I’m sure this list will grow and change over the next few months. You might have noticed that I have not opted in favor of any candidate. Your notice is correct. You might have noticed that I also have some political leanings for this election. That is also correct. I remain moderately undecided at this point. If you wish to change my mind, don’t waste your time, as I’ll probably vote for somebody else just because you tried to persuade me otherwise.

Of course, some of my friends will bring up the question as to whether the candidate is a Christian. I would remind them that I have some very dear (but politically brain dead) friends who lauded Obama for being a Christian. I remember liking Jimmy Carter because he was “born-again”, and what a colossal mistake he was of a president. Our last great president that generally stood for Christian values was Reagan, but he came under attack for his lack of Christian faith. Meanwhile, the Bush clan were lauded as Christians, yet I have serious questions about their integrity and self-serving expectations while in office. I am reminded of the Cromwell regime in England, which stacked the parliament with Christians, but who were incompetent at running a country.

So, I now offer a serious question. Does America deserve a good president? Perhaps not. I see no candidate that will make king Hezekiah or king Josiah style reforms to correct public sins and evil, and foster a more righteous nation. Ultimately, is this not the ONLY thing that matters? Making America great is a matter of making America Christianly moral. But, returning to a biblical foundation will not happen because not even most Christians have a clue as to what that is. Why do so many Christians (like the current Pope Francis) view socialism as a form of Christianity by doing good to the poor? Are they so foolish as to imagine that goodness can be forced and delegated by an evil government? Judgement on our nation looms, and Christians need to get off their Pollyannish pie-in-the-sky-in-the-sweet-by-and-by mentality that God still loves America, and that other countries might be bad, but at least we are not as evil as Russia or China. Just see what Habakkuk says… (You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? Hab 1:13)

Perhaps Christians wish for more social justice. God’s law specifically forbids judgements in favor of “the poor” just because they are poor (“You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit” Exo 23:2,3). A strong sense regarding personal ownership of property and goods must not be viewed as being evil, but the wish to re-distribute the goods of “the rich” as being very evil (You shall not covet-10th commandment, Exo 20:17).

Our current president has accelerated the process of wickedness in our nation. We are far worse now in being racially divided. We no longer grasp that having a penis means that you are male, regardless of your feelings on the subject. The gay/lesbian/trans-sexual/confused-sexuality agenda has flourished under our current Nobel peace prize gay bath-house visiting “Christian” president. Social programs have removed any moral responsibility from people, so that any sexual, economic, or behavioral issue might get you time behind bars or in the Krankenhaus, but will not result in you suffering the full impact of your inappropriate behaviors. We no longer fear the influx of foreign gods, including Buddhism, the Muslim “god”, Satanism in its various forms, and the god of mammon. The Scriptures are not silent on this. (Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.  You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God Deut 8:17).

So, my action items are as follows.
1. Pray. God is in ultimate control of everything. Remember that Obama was ordained by God (it doesn’t mean that God loves Obama! Contrary, God truly hates Obama!).
2. Stand up for what is right. Work for a crisis pregnancy center that offers alternatives to abortion. Refuse to patronize businesses that cater to the gay/lesbian/trans agenda (including the YMCA). Speak your mind for truth. Don’t be ashamed that you are a Christian. Go to a real church. Not a feel good, “Jesus loves you, come as you are” “Get in touch with the real-you”, self-empowerment church, but a real church.
3. Quit thinking that God loves America. He doesn’t. Quit thinking that America is a Christian country. It might have been at one time, but it sure is not now. Quit thinking that most Americans that say they are Christian are Christian. Do they truly understand God’s laws, and seek to live by them? (As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments Ps 103:13, 17,18). Do you erroneously consider the Older Testament as obsolete and replaced by “grace” under Jesus? Are we all Marcionites now? Are there two different gods in the bible, the old testament and new testament gods? Or did God announce through Jesus that he was just kidding, and really will not be imposing a harsh moral law on mankind from Jesus on out? Do you realize that all of America is enemy territory, the worst being many “conservative” American Christian churches?
4. Pay close attention to practicing a personal morality. It really does matter. Don’t complain when God’s judgement hits, if you are not personally walking with God, and remembering to keep His covenant. Do you encourage your neighbor to seek a biblical faith.
5. Let Scripture alone rule as your moral guide. Memorize it. Start with Ps. 1 and Ps. 2. Psalm 1 is a summary for the entire Scripture regarding the need for personal morality. Psalm 2 is a summary for the entire Scripture regarding God’s ideas regarding politics. They are eternal inviolate truths.
6. Refuse to vote for the status quo. If you do vote, trust that God will establish the perfect person for America. It will probably NOT be the person you wanted to be president.
7. Remember that over ½ of Americans voted for Obama twice over. If you think that our country truly wants what is right and good, you are living under a massive delusion.

Thanks for hearing out my rant.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places. Hab. 3:17-19

All Bible quotes in this blog were taken from the English Standard Version, complements to some of my friends who participated in this translation.

 

ADDENDUM: 28FEB2016

You might have noticed that I did not review Kasich. The simple reason is that I have nothing to say about him. I won’t move out of the USA if he becomes president, but I view him as a weak liberal.

I am feeling that Trump is shooting himself with his mouth. I am becoming increasingly concerned about him being president. He will be a better alternative that Col. Sanders or Hillarious, but feel that it would be very risky voting for him as president. I’ve also appreciated Ted Cruz more as time goes on. He’s a sharp cookie, even though he is a lawyer. If I had to vote tomorrow, it would probably be for Cruz. Who knows who my next addendum will prefer? I’ll be glad when the Republican and Democratic conventions are over with. Who knows if there will be a third party candidate? We wait in prayer that God will show at least a modicum of his steadfast love on the USA as a country, that his wrath not be too severe.

 

ADDENNDUM: 12MAR2016

I’m seeing why it was a good reason not to cast my vote firmly. Events of the past few weeks have changed my mind. Issues that have developed with Cruz.

  1. He selected Neal Bush to be on his financial staff. Why in the Sam Hill did he do this? Is he trying to get in good through the back door with the established politicians that we have learned to so thoroughly despise? Wasn’t it Neal that was involved criminally in the Savings and Loan disruption many years ago?
  2. Cruz is throwing unnecessary mud at other candidates, suggesting that he is desperate; not a good trait for a president. He now accuses Trump of stirring up the crowds. But, the crowds stirred up are the worthless chronic parasitic students, Negros, of Chicago. Get out the Kleenex. Like spoiled children, it’s time somebody told them off. Cruz cannot let go of his establishment mentality.
  3. Cruz has some very strange “magical” concepts of Christianity. The Lord told him that he would be King in America, according to his father. I don’t mind Pentecostalism, but they sometimes have the worst approach to truth.
  4. Cruz would make a good attorney general, but an awful president.

What about Trump?

  1. He has shown that he can behave and be presidential.
  2. He pisses off the liberals. Good. Hopefully, he’ll put some of those sorry asses back to real work. Hopefully, he’ll terminate half the funding to colleges, so that we don’t produce yet another generation of totally useless BS’s and BA’s, trained in gender studies, political science, environmental studies, racial studies, or law.
  3. He pisses off neocon conservatives. Good. They can keep their little playacting at party meetings, but they are just as criminal at bringing collapse to America as the liberals. The neocon arguments are ridiculous, and without substance. His hair. He looks haughty (like Hillary, Rubio, and others don’t???). He’ll get us into war (really now, are you so deaf that you can’t hear what Trump has said a million times—if we go to war (ever), THEY will pay!!!)
  4. He is acquiring more and more people that like him. My favorite candidate (above) in terms or morality and wisdom and personality was Carson, and Carson threw his towel in with Trump. The liberal neocon right simply can’t bear that, and are now coming down hard on Carson for stupidity. They lack a mirror. Phyllis Schafly has supported Trump. There are many others that are coming out.
  5. I actually ventured onto Trump’s website, prompted by the baby-ass crying neocons. I reviewed his policy statements. I agree with nearly every one of them, such as his foreign policy (except for his involvement in the South China Sea – we don’t belong there), economic issues, education (he’s listening to Carson! on that one), healthcare reform (abolish ObamaCare), immigration reform, tax reform, eliminating the death tax, and second amendment rights. I love his idea to make concealed carry permits applicable across state lines, like driver’s licenses. There’s almost nothing that I disagree with. Plus, and most importantly, he promised to put Hillary in prison. I hope that he also tries Obama for treason, makes illegitimate all of his actions as president, puts half the Supreme Court before the firing squad for treason, hangs Loretta Lynch for treason, and fires half of everybody in government.

So, I’m not totally committed but would vote for Trump if the ballot was given to me today. This has not been a good election cycle. The worst thing is not who the candidates are, but how the professional politicians of all stripes are responding to the election that isn’t going their way. They are working too hard to protect their own comfortable turf. Because of that, I dearly hope that whoever gets into office removes any retirement benefits for congress and presidents. They don’t deserve it. They get enough already in other royalties. I dearly hope that a law is passed that makes that forces congress and executive office members to live by the same laws that we have to live by. We are not supposed to have a class of royalty. Let’s get rid of them!

 

Weihnachten 2014

January 3rd, 2015

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Weihnachten 2014

Many of you readers are wondering why I took so long to post a Christmas report. Why didn’t it come on late Christmas? Or, at least, on 26DEC. Well, if you are asking, go suck on green persimmons. My top priority in life is NOT to provide the world instantaneous reports of what I just happened to do in the last hour, or what one of my children/grandchildren/nephew-niece or other relative just said that was cute. I will enjoy their cuteness in a hedonistic fashion, realizing to the rest of the world, my child/grandchild/whatever will be viewed as a solipsistic spoiled brat. No, I’m also not going to tell you what I just happened to cook, or what I am currently eating (I just happen to be taking my Abendmedikamente geschluckt mit Bier und eine Dose Rosarote Lachs für Eiweis Anhang); and if you can’t read German, you really don’t need to know what I eat/ate/will eat.

So, today, I went for a short bicycle ride (41 miles) with Russ Anderson and had an inspiration to write this post. The ride was at freezing point, and we returned quite cold. It took about 2 hours to thaw out. I don’t mind those sort of experiences. I get more annoyed when it is too hot, and I am borderline on a heat stroke. But, thinking about Christmas, Christmas tends to be melodramatic. We spend a lot for presents which don’t seem to be appreciated commensurate with the money spent or the time taken to select and purchase those items. This year, we avoided the mall altogether (Betsy and I went once just to visit the Apple Store several days after Christmas-we didn’t buy anything). We had the Hastings over, and sang Christmas carols, which we all really enjoyed.

Christmas Evening – Jon and I attended the 11 pm Gottesdienst. Bei Mitternacht gibt es Kerzenanzundung mit dem Raumlicht aus und das Stille Nacht Lied singen. Und dann, zu Hause. Every year, I make up cinnamon rolls from scratch, make about 8-12 platters of them, and then freeze them, giving them to friends, fiends, and family as gifts (aber, nicht giftig!). You simply set them out the evening before, and they unthaw, and then rise by morning, allowing you to stick them in the oven and have fresh cinnamon rolls in the morning. I made up a prime rib on the Trager grill and we had all the kids over (except for our dearest Rachel and Alex and kids). We had just installed an outdoor fireplace, into which we got a fire going, while the older kids played with the bb gun. Then, dinner.

 

Patrick as marksman on the bb rifle.

Patrick as marksman on the bb rifle.

Sammy as competitive marksman.

Sammy as competitive marksman.

Dean smirking at Patrick and Sammy, knowing that some day he will whip their Arsch on the firing range.

Dean smirking at Patrick and Sammy, knowing that some day he will whip their Arsch on the firing range.

Me cutting up the prime rib.

Me cutting up the prime rib.

Die Kinder devouring the Christmas Dinner.

Die Kinder devouring the Christmas Dinner.

Dean wanted prime rib but enjoying what he got.

Dean wanted prime rib but enjoying what he got.

The adult table.

The adult table.

Then, it was time for the kids to open up presents.

Elizabeth showing off her doll.

Elizabeth showing off her doll.

Elizabeth with mutant Frozen character themes.

Elizabeth with mutant Frozen character themes.

Sammy loves rocks.

Sammy loves rocks.

Dean wasn't sure at first what to do with the presents, but soon figured things out.

Dean wasn’t sure at first what to do with the presents, but soon figured things out.

Afterwards, we decided on S’Mores for dessert. The outdoor fireplace was the perfect place for that.

Roasting marshmallows on the campfire.

Roasting marshmallows on the campfire.

Roasting buttocks on the campfire. Left to right, Doug, Diane, Sarah, Andrew

Roasting buttocks on the campfire. Left to right, Doug, Diane, Sarah, Andrew

It was a wonderful Christmas, with a focus on God and family. Hopefully, each Christmas could be all the more so. By the way, I got the shirt in the first photo from my favorite German patient. It seems to sum up matters in few words.

The Feucht family wishes you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

Bicycling in Portland 2014

May 28th, 2014


MayCycleRides-576

Riding in Oregon with friends, family, and self, 21-26MAY2014

I had always wished to return to Portland to do some rides that I had tried as a kid, but which didn’t end so well. I wished to ride the Gorge, do Larch Mountain, and run around a number of the places I used to ride bicycles when I was growing up in Portland.  So, this adventure gave me that opportunity. I started by driving down to Portland after work of Wednesday evening. The next morning, Aaron H. came to meet me at the hotel, and we took off north. Riding across the I-205 bridge, we rode eastward along the Columbia River, following the Washugal River once we reached Camas, WA. A short segment brought us back to the Columbia River highway, where we passed Beacon Rock, crossed the Bridge of the Gods (photo above, with Aaron showing off his banana), and then rode back along the old Columbia River highway. The bicycle trail was now complete all the way out to Cascade Locks, though my cycle instructions did not realize that. The ride up to Crown Point and then back to Gresham and Portland was exhilarating. Here is the Garmin data…

The next day, I touched base with brother Gaylon, and rode a ways out the Springwater Trail to Boring, OR. It was boring, and so we turned around and came back. Garmin data…

On Saturday, I had wanted to ride up Larch Mountain with Aaron, but we decided to do something a little less strenuous, and so I came down to Salem, to do a fantastic and beautiful ride with him in the foothills of the Coast Range, and through the farmland of the Willamette Valley. Here is the Garmin for that…

Sunday was a day to relax. I spent about 4 hours with Lewis, which was much needed. I then spent time later again with Gaylon.  The weather was drizzly, and I was worried about Memorial Day, Monday, where it was supposed to rain heavily. On awakening, the weather was cloudy with sun, so I decided to go for it. On Gaylon’s advice, I headed down the I-205 corridor to Sunnyside Road, over to 152nd, down to the Clackamas River, and then back the Clackamas to Oregon City, crossing the old Oregon city bridge into West Linn, riding up to Terwilliger Blvd, headed up Terwilliger past the medical school,  (seeing the Terwilliger trail which I jogged many times while in medical school), crossing back across the Hawthorne bridge, and then (mostly) up Clinton Avenue back to the hotel on 92nd and Stark St.  I had rode the Hawthorne Bridge many times on my bike, but it was much easier now, as the wooden planks had been replaced with a solid platform. Here’s the Garmin, and a photo while crossing the bridge…

MayCycleRides-572

Hawthorne Bridge Crossing

On returning to the hotel, I threw everything in the car and dashed home. My ole BMC was a wonderful bike to do all of this riding, and it proved immense comfort and efficiency. Someday, I’d like to do the Larch Mountain climb. I’ve already worked out with Aaron to return to Oregon for the Crater Lake loop. I need to do much more riding with Gaylon, getting him into a little longer endurance rides. Altogether, it was a delightful and successful trip. Besides bicycle riding, I got to stop in at Powells Book Store, Bob’s Red Mill, and REI, as well as several bicycle shops. I should be back in Portland at the end of the STP in July, and hopefully one more time this summer for some riding.

China with Liao yisheng

April 29th, 2014

China2014-586

I have had a flurry of writing at the beginning of the year, but it has now been two months since I’ve written a review or commentary on my life. So, away we go with a trip to China. Together, Betsy and I took over 1200 photos, so, you are seeing only a small sampling.

Dr. Liao invited us to go on a trip with him to China. He had been suggesting this to me for quite a while now, and we have finally gotten around to going. The trip lasted from 10-26APRIL, and we visited 5 cities, representing central China. The weather was cool, with intermittent rain. The atmosphere was not smoggy, but actually quite hazy, making for less than optimal photographs. Click on the individual photographs for a larger view. Here is the blow by blow of our travels…

Friday Diane tok us to the airport, and we met Mike, before getting on the Hainan express to Beijing. The flight went 1 hour shorter than expected, and eleven hours later, 4:50 the next day, we landed in Beijing. After finding our hotel and checking in, we went out for a quick dinner, and crashed.

Sunday: Mike had arranged a guided tour for today, which included first a visit to the Great wall. It was  great. According to Mao, anybody that visits the Great Wall is a hero, so, Betsy and I are now heros. After that,  we visited the tombs of the Ming dynasty emperors, with a focus on the third, Yongle. We then visited a silk factory and purchased a silk comforter, a jade factory, and a tea specialty house for a tea tasting. That evening, we decided to do some Chinese cuisine, which we enjoyed. This was on what was called “bar row”, where we met a friend, XiaoDong, of Mike, who joined us at dinner. This restaurant was on a lake, which we then walked around before heading home. XiaoDong is a biomedical scientist, possibly in line for the nobel prize, but very delightful in personality.

Dr. Liao at the Great Wall - a real hero!

Dr. Liao at the Great Wall – a real hero! 

The tomb area of Yongle

The tomb area of Yongle

The restaurant menus come as picture books. Here is an example.

The restaurant menus come as picture books. Here is an example.

Out for tea

Out for tea

Monday: first, Tian’nanmen square, which is just a large plaza. We wished to see the Chairman, but his tomb was closed, as well as the Forbidden City. So, we opted for seeing a flower garden next to the Forbidden City, and then going to the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace was build by the Ming dynasty, but burned by the British, and then again by the British and the French, and each time rebuilt. It was massive, with a very large lake in the center. The Buildings were all over the hillside and very ornate. After dinner, Betsy and I were exhausted and crashed.

The gardens next to the Forbidden City

The gardens next to the Forbidden City

Ming dynasty architecture at the Summer Palace in Beijing.

Ming dynasty architecture at the Summer Palace in Beijing.

A stiff climb up to the top of the hill in the summer palace area.

A stiff climb up to the top of the hill in the summer palace area.

Boat trip across the lake at the Summer palace

Boat trip across the lake at the Summer palace

 

Tuesday:   A quick breakfast first was followed by a trip back to Mao’s grave, and then the Forbidden City.  Mao’s grave was most interesting. There was an hour long line, as roughly 200,000 plus people visit the grave each day. You pass through security, and are not allowed to have bags or cameras, no photos were obtained. You are sold white flowers to leave at his grave. In the building, you enter a large room where his statue is sitting in a friendly pose,  carved in giant white stone, similar to the Lincoln memorial. In the next room, his body lays in state, reasonably well preserved. Mao has had a comeback in China, remembering him not so much for his colossal mistakes (the great leap forward and the cultural revolution)  but for his absence of corruption and for uniting the Chinese people.  We then went to the Forbidden City. Mein Gott! This made any European palace system, including Versailles, look like kid’s stuff. The palace and grounds were huge. There were over 8,000 rooms. There were huge squares. Sadly, Chaing Kai Shek looted most of the treasures of the Forbidden City. Schwein! They now sit in Taiwan, and don’t belong to them. Every building was exquisitely decorated in the most ornate fashion. It all made you feel quite small. The evening was spent having Peking duck, and then cha he pijiu (tea and beer) on a rotating restaurant on top of our hotel.

At the enclosure leading to the Forbidden City.

At the enclosure leading to the Forbidden City.

Inside the Forbidden City

Inside the Forbidden City

A small section of the Forbidden City showing its immense size

A small section of the Forbidden City showing its immense size

Wednesday:  Today, we say goodby to Beijing and hello to Xi’an. After breakfast, Mike and I first visited the Beijing Hospital, the best hospital in the country of China. It was a zoo. There were wall-to-wall people lined up various activities, such as waiting to pay for an appointment, waiting for the doctor, etc. There is no such thing as an appointment time as it is first come, first served. The hospital was nice, but just miserably crowded. After that we went to the Beijing Cancer Hospital, the best cancer hospital in the country. We met a doctor friend of Mike’s, and toured the place. It also was a zoo. China needs a better system—they have great doctors but no system. From there, we checked out of our hotel, ran down to the other end of Chang’An Jie (Long Peace Street) caught our high speed train to Xi’an, was picked up by a driver, and delivered to our hotel after having dinner. This hotel would have been a $4-500 hotel in the US, but we paid slightly more than $100. Throughout the travel, including the high sped train, and the hotel, it did not seem like we were in China, as things seemed to be nicer than in the USA. Construction was occurring everywhere you looked.  There was an unbelievable dynamism occurring.

A crowded waiting room at Beijing Hospital

A crowded waiting room at Beijing Hospital

Thursday:  this was another hectic day. After a quick breakfast, we headed off to the terra cotta soldiers of Qin She Huangdi. The site was massive and overwhelming. We then went to a site that had the swimming pools of the emperor’s favorite concubine. After a massive lunch, we headed to the museum and burial site of China’s only female emperor, Wu Zetain. Dinner was again held, with a bit of overeating, but meeting some of Dr. Liao’s acquaintances in Xi’an.

Main area of the Terra Cotta warriors. There are over 6000 that have already been excavated.

Main area of the Terra Cotta warriors. There are over 6000 that have already been excavated.

Terra Cotta soldier wanna be's.

Terra Cotta soldier wanna be’s.

A typical lunch scene.

A typical lunch scene.

Today we got to try duck's feet and duck's heads

Today we got to try duck’s feet and duck’s heads

Mike practices his calligraphy at Mr. Yeung's office

Mike practices his calligraphy at Mr. Yeung’s office

Our most gratious host, Mr. Yeung.

Our most gracious host, Mr. Yeung.

Example of instructions everywhere not to walk on the grass, in poetic form.

Example of instructions everywhere not to walk on the grass, in poetic form.

At the swimming pool of the emporer's concubine. She was reportedly the most beautiful woman in China (next to Betsy, of course)

At the swimming pool of the emporer’s concubine. She was reportedly the most beautiful woman in China (next to Betsy, of course)

Friday: another quick breakfast, and then we headed off to a local Xi’an hospital. This was a private hospital, and they were in the process of building an entirely new hospital, which we toured in the construction phase. It is 27 floors,  1000 beds, with both in and outpatient facilities in the same structure. They then held a conference to ask our ideas on forming a more American style service to the hospital. The hospital is private, in that it was owned 80% by the doctors and nurses in the hospital, and 20% by other investors. After lunch, we went to a museum of ancient history, where relics from s far back as the Shang dynasty were on exhibit, going up to the Tang dynasty. I was amazed at the exquisite character of the workmanship in the bronze material. Xi’an has the largest complete still existing city wall in the world. It was huge, 15 km in length, and bounded by a river. We looked at the gate which was essentially the starting point for the silk road. There were amazingly no tourists there, but it was an impressive site. After paying a visit to a local Catholic church, where they were having a Bible study, we headed off to dinner.

Part of the 15 km wall of Xi'an. It was very large on top, room for 4 lanes of traffic.

Part of the 15 km wall of Xi’an. It was very large on top, room for 4 lanes of traffic.

Saturday: We checked out of our hotel, which was probably the nicest hotel that I’ve stayed in ever. There was even a private sauna in our room. We went to breakfast, and then visited the large Buddhist temple in town. Xi’an was one of the main towns that promoted Buddhism early on in its introduction to China, so it was a significant town for Buddhism. The restaurant experience for lunch was most unique, as Betsy and I saw foods that we never dreamt to be possible. Duck feet and duck heads, chicken feet, squid, frog legs, and vegetables that I have never even heard of before. The food was Anhui, which I’d probably avoid in the future.  We later stopped at the largest hospital in Xi’an, and drifted around. It certainly was large enough for over 2000 in-patients. Next stop was the airport. So far, we’ve been in a city of 22 million, and 8 million. We are now heading to Chongqing,a city of 11 million persons. Small towns just are a bit hard to find. Dr. Liao’s two older brothers met us for dinner. Dinner in Chongqing was at a hot pot, where each seat has a hot plate that has a sauce pan with boiling water with spices. You take various items and cook them yourself to eat. The hot pot was first done done in Chongqing.

Our hotel, on the banks of the Yangzi river.

Our hotel, on the banks of the Yangzi river.

The cross-walk just outside of our hotel.

The cross-walk just outside of our hotel.

Sunday- this was a lazy day. We started out by hitting a McDonalds for Betsy’s sake for breakfast. Mike left us alone to tend to family issues, and we were able to spend a relaxing morning in our hotel room. We took a long walk along the Changjiang (Yangtzi River), while Mike went to help resolve family issues. Later, we met Mike’s brother, who is a physics professor at the University and Susan, who took us to a historical museum in Chongqing where the forces of the Kuomintang slaughtered a large number of Mao supporters who were in prison here. The evening was a family get together, where we met Mike’s parents, and had a large, real Sichuan dinner. Nothing was recognizable except for the kung pao chicken, which was super-hot.

Historical museum of the Chongqing prison.

Historical museum of the Chongqing prison.

Old shopping district in Chongqing.

Old shopping district in Chongqing.

Les Trois Mousquetaires - Two of Mike's three brothers

Les Trois Mousquetaires – Two of Mike’s three brothers

The Liao family gathering in Chongqing. Mike had the sweetest parents.

The Liao family gathering in Chongqing. Mike had the sweetest parents.

Monday- breakfast was at Starbucks! We took a walk again along the Changjiang before checking out of the hotel. Mike’s brother, the physics professor, picked us up from the hotel, and we went down to the center of town, which was a large shopping center with super-rich shops such as would be found in Bellevue, or on the Kö. Lunch included the standard Sichuan cuisine, which was quite hot and spicy, but very flavor-able. Much of the food was unrecognizable to us, and contained very strange creatures. We then dashed to the airport, flew to Hangzhou, and was picked up by Mike’s sister-in-law, who taught traditional Chinese medicine at the medical school in town. This includes using acupuncture, herbal medicines and things of the like. Every hospital has traditional medicine doctors, who are used in treating select illnesses. We got to our hotel by 9pm and collapsed. The area of the hotel is called the Xihu Qu, or the Westlake District, the most expense real estate in all of China. I’m told that Hangzhou was an area of the first experiments in capitalism in China, and there was clear success.

Mike's sister-in-law outside one of the pagodas on WestLake

Mike’s sister-in-law outside one of the pagodas on WestLake

Pagoda on WestLake

Pagoda on WestLake

Tuesday—after breakfast at the hotel, we were picked up by Mike’s sister-in-law, and toured a number of museums and places of interest. The museums in Hangzhou were all free, making it nice. We first went to a silk museum, where they had on display historical silks from many mons ago. They also had a nice display of the silk making process. We went to a large experimental farm established by one of the emperors from several hundred years ago. We toured a ceramic museum, which showed the development of porcelain from ceramics many moons ago. We went to one of the large pagodas on the banks of Xihu. There was lunch, and the took a long walk around Westlake, including a boat ride to one of the islands in the lake. The Xihu (Westlake) area is like one massive park on steroids, very popular and thus very crowded even in slow times, though not often visited by foreigners. It is meticulously cared for, massive flower beds, and most beautiful. We had dinner on the lake. Hangzhou is known for its particular cuisine, which is not hot, but distinctly different from other Chinese cuisines. The food tends to have more fish in it, and tends to have a more slimy character. After dinner we were tired, stuffed, and wanted to crash.

WestLake area

WestLake area

View of part of WestLake from the top of the pagoda

View of part of WestLake from the top of the pagoda

Scene on WestLake

Scene on WestLake

Mike searching for directions

Mike searching for directions

Wednesday—This was a slower day for us. We spent much time walking along Xihu, people watching, buying tea and other things, eating at Burger King (not as good as the US), and then drifting on back to the hotel. We then met Dr. liao’s brother-in-law, who is working on a PhD in constitutional law in Beijing. He took Mike and I on an extended tour of our hotel side of the lake (Xihu). We again visited a number of museums, and then tried this famous local dessert made out of the powder of the lotus plant root. It tasted good, but was a bit slimy in texture, but is well liked by Chinese. We had dinner in a very popular restaurant along the shore of Xihu, and the restaurant where Mike was married. Dr. Liao’s nephew Andy was with us, 11 years old, and who will be starting boarding school in Connecticut this August.

Elderly couples dancing in the park in Hangzhou. This was commonly seen by us.

Elderly couples dancing in the park in Hangzhou. This was commonly seen by us.

Mike's brother in law, talking seriously with Mike.

Mike’s brother in law, talking seriously with Mike.

Outside of one of the museums with Mike's brother in law.

Outside of one of the museums with Mike’s brother in law.

Lotus schleim. I actually tasted good.

Lotus schleim. I actually tasted good.

Scene from the WestLake park.

Scene from the WestLake park.

Girls loved to have their photographs with Betsy.

Girls loved to have their photographs with Betsy.

Thursday—today we were picked up by Mike’s sister-in-law and taken to the train station. The ride was one hour from Hangzhou to Shanghai. In Shanghai, we first found our hotel, and then took a cab ride to the international district. We saw the building where Mao and twelve people wrote the constitution for China, and then we went out to eat at a faux-German restaurant. The beer was good, food very so-so. Afterwards, we walked along the riverfront, looking at the buildings of Shanghai, and slowly drifted home. Hangzhou was a small town of only 3 million people and 8 million in the metropolitan area, but Shanghai had 10 million in the city and 20 million in the whole area, a little bit larger city.

Shanghai architecture across the river from Mike and I

Shanghai architecture across the river from Mike and I

Friday—today is a lazy day, with a focus on shopping. We went to two shopping areas, where we focused on buying tea, porcelain, and gifts for the kids. The first shopping district was close to our hotel, anf a very long shopping road, off limits to cars, and with very fancy shops. We then hopped in a taxi, and went to a very large shopping center with a Ming dynasty architecture motive. This place was huge, we spent all of our renminbis, and had an awesome time. We then got ready for dinner, hopped the subway to the other side of the river that runs through Shanghi, and went into a very large shopping center, larger than anything that I’ve ever seen in the US. It was a total of thirteen floors. Before entering, we got an appreciation for the building architecture of the new Shanghi, which is beyond anything found in America. Dinner tonight was with Drs. En and Mrs. Li. He taught biochemistry and did biochemical research at Harvard University, before getting a job working for Novartis, back home in Shanghai. China, because of its burgeoning economic status, is extremely favorable for scientists, and it is very easy for me to see why. Dinner, by the way, was probably the best meal we ever had in China, though entirely Chinese. En has apparently lived long enough in the US to know what the American taste would like.

Ming style architecture in large shopping district in Shanghai.

Ming style architecture in large shopping district in Shanghai.

Typical buildings in Shanghai

Typical buildings in Shanghai

More very creative architecture in Shanghai

More very creative architecture in Shanghai

Family at a small tea shop where we purchased tea and tea cups

Family at a small tea shop where we purchased tea and tea cups. Note that Oma cares for the baby.

Inside the large shopping mall. This only a small view of the whole mall.

Inside the large shopping mall. This only a small view of the whole mall.

Dinner with our gracious host in Shanghai, Li En and wife.

Dinner with our gracious host in Shanghai, Li En and wife.

 

Saturday—we are eager to get home, though we have most thoroughly enjoyed China, and it is sad to say goodbye. A cab ride got us to the train station, and the train from Shanghai to Beijing was 5 hours, with 5 stops. It was mostly through very flat farmland. In Beijing, a friend of Mike’s picked us up and shuttled us to the airport, a little over an hour drive, and giving us our last taste of crazy Chinese driving. The flight home was 9 hours. We left Beijing at 4:30 pm and arrived in Seattle the same day at noon. It was two days packed into one. After saying goodbye to our dear friend Mike, Sarah shuttled us home. We unpacked, and noted piles of tea, as well as no broken porcelain. It was good to be home.

Thoughts on China…

Just a few minor observations. Cars… Brother Dennis purchased a Chinese vehicle in Belize, which was a total piece of junk. I anticipated that I would see cities full of junky cars and rickshaws, bicycles, and baby taxis, like in India. Instead, there were no rickshaws or baby taxis, almost no bicycles, and the most popular car was the Mercedes Benz, followed closely by the other German cars, BMW and VW. Chinese cars are reportedly next in popularity, followed by American cars,  and Korean/Japanese cars were the least frequent. I did not see a single Chinese made car until Chongqing, but it was a nice looking sports utility vehicle. Supposedly, they have vastly improved the quality of their vehicles. At the end of two weeks, we saw less than five Chinese built vehicles.

Secondly, the big cities do not have slums. They do have poorer parts of the city, but nothing that I would call a slum. The countryside had some very poor areas, but no worse than found in Belize, Jamaica, Cameroon, or Bangladesh, the “third world countries” that we’ve been to. The dress that people wear is identical to the western world. There was no ability to recognize that you were not in the US or Europe except for the Chinese writing, and that everybody was oriental. There is minimal unemployment in China, as there are no unemployment checks, welfare, food stamps, or anything of that sort. In a strong sense, it is more capitalistic than America! Regardless of your status or education, if out of a job, you will take anything in order to survive. The state will not be your nanny. There are no messy employment laws, and you can fire an employee at will. Employers tend to treat their employees well. One morning, we saw at a clothing store and then at a restaurant all of the employees out in front of the store doing Zumba like exercises. Many larger firms will have a cafeteria for free lunch. Our friend also had a large library at his firm for employees to encourage their continued education.

Thirdly, traffic is absolutely horrid in China. Why most the cars do not have bumps and scrapes is a total mystery to me. An American traffic cop would find violations literally every second. People use the shoulders of expressways as a passing lane. People run red lights. Cars do not yield to pedestrians but vice versa. People will aggressively violate every traffic rule on the books to pass a car in front of them. I watched my taxi driver pull into the on-coming lane of a four-lane road in order to beat a traffic light. I could not ride in the front seat of a car. Historically, I feared the taxi drivers of NYC. Now, China has exceeded that 10-fold. Next time I go to China, I bring mass quantities of Valium if I anticipate an automobile ride.

Fourthly, the Chinese put a very high value on family and relationships. This is a little odd, since their value for human life is less than in the US. Everywhere we went, we saw grandparents with grandchildren. I was surprised to see that the state was not raising the child, but the grandparents. In family relationships, the grandparents are usually asked permission for any major decision, such as marriage.  The eldest son held priority in family decisions. Nursing homes did not exist, as the children were expected to care for their aging parents. I did not expect this.

Fifthly, the language and poetry are important. Everywhere you go, you see poetry. Apparently, the Chinese language lends itself easily to poetic expression. We would see signs not to walk on the grass, and it was written in a poetic fashion (so I am told by Dr. Liao).  The Chinese hold those who are masters at poetry in the highest regard. And, the person in recent history who excelled in poetry was none other than Chairman Mao.

Sixthly, Mao Ren Zi (Chairman Mao) is the most poorly represented person in the west. Before my visit to China, I viewed Mao as nothing but a beast who slaughtered millions of people. That is perhaps true, but it lacks the full impact of who this man was. Why is it that Mao now has a near 100% acceptance rating in China? Why is he generally appreciated everywhere in China, and not because it is forced on the Chinese people? As mentioned above, the Chinese knew that Mao was most brilliant, and had a mastery of the language beyond most intellectuals. His poetry is everywhere, because it was very well done. During the years that Mao was chairman, he changed the Chinese language for the good, like having the symbols simplified. The Chinese now read and write right to left, like we do. Why? They used to write up to down and backwards, but Mao had that changed. Mao not only liberated the farmers, but also women, stopping crazy practices like feet binding, and giving them more rights. Secondly, the greatest problem with all Chinese emporers and rulers was serious corruption. If one faulted Mao for anything, it certainly was not corruption. Chaing Kai Shek was very corrupt, and the peasants knew it well, which is why they flocked in support of Mao. Mao had no love for the privileged elite, and exalted the poor peasants to a better living. That is seen well in China nowadays, with there being many multi-millionaires, but the farmers in the countryside have a reasonably good living in comfortable circumstances, and not as it was before 1949. With the current corruption in government, there is a sense of nostalgia for a leader who could act for everybody’s best interest without corruption. People often cite the fact that Mao murdered millions ruthlessly. Actually, most of the deaths under Mao’s watch were from serious mistakes that he made, and most people in China acknowlege that. I am referring to the great leap forward, and to the cultural revolution, which were truly stupid mistakes, which led to millions of Chinese dying, though not intentionally by Mao. One cannot forget history. China is a somewhat diverse group of people, with 56 ethnic groups, multiple religions, and multiple languages. In my reading of Chinese history, I don’t know of a single emporer that did not have to do a major “purge” to acquire unity and control of the country. Now, perhaps unity in China is not a good thing, but that is not something that I would propose—I don’t wish to be like the French, who felt the a united Germany (back in 1870) was not a good thing, since they would lose control of the weak individual German states. In any case, power was used consistently to achieve unity in the country. Finally, many in China view there to be two major revolutions in the country. The first was with the rise of the Qin dynasty, a very short dynasty from 221 to 206BC, and best known for the terra cotta warriors. What most don’t realize, was that the Qin leaders were quite ruthless at leading to the unity of the country. They also unified the language, and standardized many things, such as the width of wagon wheels. Important? Think about India, that has 5 different gauges for the railroads. That wasn’t to happen in China, because of wise but strong leadership. The second revolution was with Mao. Mao is now gone, and we are able to speak freely about him. There is much wrong with Mao, and I don’t think that the ends ever justifies the means. No doubt, Chairman Mao is a complex person, and my attempt to understand why he has such a pull in Chinese society at this time now has a little better insight.

Finally, what about “communist” China? Are they “communist” only in that the leadership is not necessarily elected, and that they do not permit criticism of the government? In China at this time, that is not bad, because the leaders have been capable of brilliant leadership. What about restrictions of speech? Facebook is not allowed in China, as well as many other forms of social networking. But then, homosexuality and pornography are also not allowed. Is that bad? I wish it were so in the USA. Meanwhile, the USA is far more communistic and socialistic than China. Perhaps we need to re-think the corruption and evil than rules strong in Amerika?

In conclusion, this trip to China was fantastic, and Betsy and I thoroughly enjoyed ourself. The food was sometimes slightly wearisome, but was always quite good – just not what we are used to. The mass crowds were also a little challenging. China was nothing like we expected, and the wealth and immensity was overwhelming. I now have a feel for Marco Polo returning to Italy only to find that nobody could believe his fantastic tales of China. China truly is dazzling, and the people everywhere were friendly. Most signs had English translations, suggesting that we Amerikans are still welcome in China. Hopefully, we don’t create an artificial war that treats China like an enemy. They have no interest in war, as their internal problems are great enough. I would hope that politicians could see China as a friend, understanding the differences that separate our two countries.

Superbowl

February 3rd, 2014

Seahawks

Much hype was made over the Superbowl in the Seattle area. Everybody (hyperbole, actually, only about 30%) was wearing Superbowl shirts over the past week, and the mania reached to all branches of life. The super-rich flew to Christie-Land (kind of like Fantasy Land) to personally attend the festivities. There was great apprehension, because the Reds (* see below for explanation of the colors) had the most valuable player. Conversely, the Blue-Greens had the favor of Nero, as well as the Reformed Pope of Seattle (Mark Driscoll).

The game was not watched by me, but I could tell that it was practically over from the start. The only anxiety remaining was whether the Blue-Greens would be able to pull off a total shut-out. Actually, they did accomplish a total shut-down, as the city of Seattle and its accompanying megalopolis rested quietly, all citizens glued to their personal sewer pipes (televisions). The streets were empty, and shops were stilled. Even the houses of worship that still met on Sunday evening were poorly attended—I know, since I went, but heard one of the best sermons ever last night-Zechariah 14. Facebook was littered with photos of home Superbowl parties, photos of nauseating junk food spreads fit for Rosanne Barr or Oprah, and scores were updated on a continuous basis. Since I am friends on Facebook only of Seahawk devotees, I delighted in their spontaneous posts of rapturous praise to the Blue-Green god. The red devotees were not happy, but I never heard from them, and they got what they deserved—dogs and blasphemers never deserve to win.

Now that the Superbowl is over and the Blue-Greens are the victors, all is well in the Land of Oz. The Emerald City has returned to it’s usual helter-skelter. But, there is a noticeable difference. There is now love in the city. No crimes have happened since the clock struck game-time zero the Land of Oz.  There is a prevailing sense of peace. There is joy unspeakable among the residents of Oz. It is a transformation like has never occurred in our great land. Meanwhile, Nero has announced that he was just kidding regarding Nero-Care and is terminating it as of this moment. He is withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, shut down the Federal Reserve, and has confessed to being an inveterate liar, never to lie again. Salvation has come to our dear Pacific Northwest, and we’ve all found jesus. The Seattle Pope has already declared that many of the Blue-Greens have found jesus, and while the rumor exists that while some of the Reds have professed finding the same man, we know most assuredly that that simply cannot be true, as jesus loves sports and would only allow true believers to win.

 

*In Greek and Roman society, the sports teams were named by color, so that instead of the SeaHawks, the Broncos, the Cubs, the Trailblazers, you had the Blues, the Reds, the Greens, the Whites, etc. The White Sox or the Red Sox most closely approximate the ancient standard. The SeaHawks colors are Blue-Green and the Broncos Orange with a touch of Blue (call them Red since an Orange team did not exist in Rome), so they are referred to with color terminology in this post. Ancient Nero, like most of the emperors, was an avid Green fan, so he probably would have been a SeaHawks Blue-Green fan. The reincarnation of Nero in the White House almost certainly is a Blue-Green fan.

Noch ein Jahr vorbei (2013)

January 1st, 2014

Happy New Year! The year has had some great trials, as well as bringing supreme joys.

Joys? Not only has Rachel given us Lily Mae and Adalyn Grace, but Diane also have given us Dean, leaving us with 8 grandchildren. It’s an odd thing to think how much joy one gets out of the grandchildren.

The trials (and trial, literally) last year has been hard, but has been good for both Betsy and me. We have acquired a rich discovery of each other that has been a blessing. It is typical to have the empty nest turn on parents as a strenuous time for each other, but we have found it just the opposite. It has been fun traveling together, and just living together.

The trial from last Spring has been elaborated in a blog entry from April and can be read about there. The supposition is that one gets over a lawsuit, knowing that they are going to happen, and one gets on with life. That has not happened to me. I have felt the horrible injustice of the court system that does not seek after truth and rightness. When a physician does everything right, he still is legally culpable if a problem arises. In response, I have backed down considerably in what I do in my practice, and plan on retiring sooner than later. I see God’s hand in all of this, as it is otherwise quite difficult to slow down one’s practice and yet be able to remain in practice. It feels as though the entire system has you trapped.

Trips have included a bicycle ride with the ACA in Death Valley, a trip with Dr. Tate in upstate Michigan on bicycles, a trip to Germany with Jonny, and a bicycle ride on the eastern side of the Sierras with the ACA and also with Jonny. All of these trips are chronicled previously on this website. I took a brief trip to San Antonio (not recorded in a blog entry) in early December for the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. There were other small trips.

Last year, I noted that I was working through all of my classical music. I have since acquired about 20 days more music, including a complete Wagner (with 2 sets combined), a nearly complete Haydn set, a complete Verdi, and multiple other works. My classical collection is now 66633 songs, consisting of 418.3 Gbytes, which would take me 204 days, 10:22 hours to listen to. At the end of the year, I am now left with 4189 songs, 29.5 Gbytes, and 14 days, 11:31 hours of music. I have acquired a set of the complete Bach organ works by Marie-Claire Alain that I have yet to load. So, I should be completely through my classical collection some time in late February or early March.

Plans for the coming year include more bicycle rides. More people from church have become interested in cycling, including Rick DeMass, the associate pastor. I am planning a week loop in Washington with Jonny, as well as a ride in the Black Hills with the ACA. Before the Black Hills trip, Betsy I plan on driving to Sioux Center to see Alex and Rachel and Lily and Adelyn, who will then meet me in the Black Hills for several days.  Betsy and I will be traveling to China with Dr. Liao in April. I am trying to put together a church trip to Israel with John Delancey for early 2015.  I also plan on going with Betsy to Phoenix in March to meet Dr. Tate and attend the SSO. I might also go to the American College of Surgeons meeting either this year or next. This year, I’d like to do the STP (Seattle to Portland bicycle ride), as well as a ride in Oregon with an old friend Aaron Hughes. There are no plans yet for Germany this year, though a trip in the fall is appealing. I really appreciate my time with all my German friends, including Dr. Herbert, Dr. Hannes and Katja, and Dr. Carsten and family. For 2015, I’d really like to do a 2-3 week Danau Radweg ride (Danube bicycle route) from Danaueschigen to Wien. I have no current plan to change my practice as it is right now, but will be working on forming a more cohesive atmosphere for cancer at Good Samaritan Hospital.

I still have a large stack of books to get through. Some time this year, I plan on reading Calvin’s Institutes, translated by Battles, as well as reading Hermann Bavinck’s 4 volume set on systematic theology. Neither of those books are available (yet) on Kindle.

Most of the sleepless nights that I and Betsy have had have been related to the troubles that close friends have had. Sometimes, it can be harder to endure watching a friend suffer, than to be going through such suffering yourself. Relationships to friends, family and God have become more important over the past year. Sundays at church remain a defining moment in Betsy and my lives. All else becomes meaningless before an infinite, personal God.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever… as for me, it is good to be near God: I have made the Lord God my refuge. From Psalms 73

Thoughts about the Pacific Crest Trail

October 29th, 2013

PCTDreams-1

The reader of my blog site may will notice below that I have reviewed a series of movies and books related to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. This is a trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through the Sierra Nevada mountains, and then the Cascades. It is over 2650 miles, and typically take 4-½ to 5 months for a hiker to accomplish this, doing roughly 25 miles/day. I wish to offer an explanation now for these posts.

If you look through many of my distant past posts, typically end-of-the-year posts, you will notice occasion mentions of dreams for epic adventures. It is not a mistake that the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings trilogy and Der Ring des Niebelungen 4-opera series are my favorite books and operas. They all represent epic adventures. Whether it be a bicycle trip that completely circumnavigates the United States, or a thru-hike of the Appalachian or Pacific Crest trail, such an adventure has been a dream since I was a kid. I remember well as a teenager hearing the account of Luke Huber backpacking around the world. Such a thing could never be done in today’s world. Even then, 40 years ago, Luke was able to do it since he carried a Brazilian passport and not a US passport. His slideshow tale has stuck in my mind as though I had just seen it yesterday. It was a venture like I would have longed to have done but never could have been possible for me.

So, the question remains as to whether I would ever be able to accomplish a epic adventure? Two issues affect my decision. The first issue is Betsy. Regardless of every other affection and desire that I have, Betsy remains the most important person that I have in life, dare I say, even more important than my own personal satisfaction. Outside of my love for God, nothing exceeds my love for Betsy, and desire to be with her and enjoy her. Since she would not be able (or desire) to accomplish an epic thru-hike or epic bicycle venture, I must judiciously tailor my plans and expectations. The second issue is my own personal health, which is good, though I still require low doses of antihypertensive medications.

A third but non-issue is the economics of such a venture, which relates more to being able to get away from work for 3-6 months in order to accomplish such a task. I just discharged a patient from my practice who I treated for #####; he worked for REI in the warehouse in Sumner, and was an avid outdoorsman. He explained the REI policy that all employees at 15 years get to take a 1 year Sabbatical, and then they take a Sabbatical every 5 years after that. I couldn’t believe my ears. I had no clue that one successful corporation in the US actually has some sane employment policy.  When I took a Sabbatical in 2009, it was after a maddening 4 years of medical school, with minimal break to start 8 years of an insanely busy residency and fellowship, with minimal break to start 2 years of life as a military doctor, with minimal break to start (by 2009) 14-½ years of hard slave labor. You can add up the numbers easily enough. Yet, my Sabbatical in 2009 was considered most unusual. It was one of the smarter things I ever did in life, besides coming on my knees to the cross of Jesus Christ, and asking Betsy to marry me. If one considers that a Sabbatical occurs every 7th year, then the year 2016 should be my next Sabbatical year. I’ll be 62 years of age then, and ready to hang it up for good. I will actually retire somewhere between 2016 and 2020, when I will be forced to retire, since I have no intention of re-certifying with the American Board of Surgery. This will get me plenty of time for epic adventures. In terms of cost, the trail is cheaper than daily life at home, especially (when cycling) one plans to spend most of their nights tenting, which is no problem for me.

I cannot speak for the Appalachian trail, but for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), there are some good arguments against performing a thru-hike. “Thru-hiking” means that one goes from the very beginning to the very end of any given trail in a single setting, i.e, doing Mexico to Canada from start to finish in a single year, without formally leaving the trail. In order to do that, one must start in the southern California desert at the start of the hot season, hit the high Sierras a little early in the season, when snow still covers most of the trail, arrive in Yosemite at the peak of the bug season, hit Oregon in the still rainy season, and then hope and pray that nothing interferes with your schedule to make it through the North Cascades before an early winter snowstorm. Ideally, Oregon and Washington are best hiked in July and August, the high Sierras in June/July and not May/June, and the desert in March. This means that to thoroughly enjoy the PCT, sectional or chunk hiking is the way to go. You can’t write books or make movies or spend hours bragging of your sub-epic venture, but at least you will not have turned backpacking into a chronic enduring painful drudgery.

There is a third alternative to thru-hiking and section hiking, which is chunk hiking. While thru-hiking attacks the trail in one grand solitary attack, and sectional hiking deals with short excerpts, chunk hiking is to tackle a larger section than section hiking, such as doing the entire state of Washington or Oregon in one setting, or California in several settings. Brian Lewis, in one of the books reviewed below, discusses chunk hiking, suggesting that chunk hiking gives the hiker the best of all worlds, being able to tackle sections of the trail at the right time of the year, while not engaging in the insanity of a 4-6 month ordeal and still maintaining the spirit of a thru-hike.

Chunk or thru-hiking demands a completely different style from regular hiking. Most importantly, much less weight must be carried. Every ounce of weight matters. Nothing frivolous can be engaged. Light-weight stoves or tents are not light enough. Certain things cannot be sacrificed, such as clothing, but even then, extreme prudence needs to be exercised to carry only one change of clothes, and then wash them once every week or two. Meals are typically eaten cold, unless at a re-supply. Since there are long stretches of trail uncrossed by road, a 7-9 day supply of food must be carried, while considering 5000 cal/day to be the norm on the trail. Most people do not use hiking boots, but rather use hiking shoes.  Resupply needs to be accurately planned out beforehand, since one will not carry all the necessary maps at once, clothing and equipment changes on the different sections of the trail, and shoes wear out, hikers usually going through about three pair of shoes.

So, perhaps my epic adventure should be done on a bicycle, and leave the PCT to sectional or chunk hiking. It would be cool to do the Pacific coast trail down to San Diego, and then return on the Sierra Cascades trail back up to Canada and then home, using the path outlined by the Adventure Cycle Association (Pacific Coast & Sierra Cascades). That trip would parallel the PCT on a bicycle, and would take about 3 months total, which is entirely possible. For now, I am planning a week-long backpack with Jon or someone else next year, hopefully doing the Wonderland Trail in reverse from what Jon and I did several years ago. I would also like to do part if not all of the Washington Parks (Adventure Cycle Association) Route around Washington State. Other planned ventures will be mentioned in the year-end report.

Sierra Sampler 2013

September 17th, 2013

SierraSampler-24

Sierra Sampler with the Adventure Cycle Association

(Note – click on individual photos to see larger views of them)

06SEPT2013-Jonny and I were able to leave Puyallup at 1700, arriving in Roseburg, Oregon at 2300. Traffic out of Puyallup was horrid, being stop and go until past Olympia. Portland also had  bad traffic through Wilsonville.

07SEPT2013- we followed Google maps advice, avoiding Sacramento, and arriving at Donner state park at about 2:15. After unloading our stuff, we headed  with our bikes up Donner Pass to the ski area, where we parked our cars and then rode our bikes back to camp, about 7 miles. The view of the lake was fantastic, as well as the  railroad that could be seen with its many tunnels. The Garmin data are below…

Jon on Donner Pass with the rail in the background

Jon on Donner Pass with the rail in the background

On Donner Pass looking down onto Donner Lake

On Donner Pass looking down onto Donner Lake

First day introduction

First day introduction

The food line-at Donner State Park

The food line-at Donner State Park

Jerry showing us how to wash dishes

Jerry showing us how to wash dishes

08SEPT2013 – Truckee to South Lake Tahoe.  This was a little more uppy-downy than I expected, but beautiful. It started out freezing cold, and became quite hot by noon. Fortunately, the ride was completed soon after noon, and all of the riders (33+) all did well and had a great itme. Beer never tasted so good after such a ride. The meals were also catered and were quite delectable. I worried about gaining weight on this venture! The Garmin data are below…

Squaw Valley Ski area

Squaw Valley Ski area

Jon grinning like a hedgehog

Jon grinning like a hedgehog

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Jon taking a very brief rest

Jon taking a very brief rest

Lake Tahoe (again)

Lake Tahoe (again)

The mountains around Lake Tahoe

The mountains around Lake Tahoe

Lunch stop on the ride to South Lake Tahoe

Lunch stop on the ride to South Lake Tahoe

Am Stand bei Tahoe See

Am Stand bei Tahoe See

09SEPT2013- Luther Pass- because of the fire, the decision was made to do only the first pass, then turn around. We were then shuttled to a small resort (Virginia Creek Settlement). The climb to Luther Pass started like the day before, quite chilly at first, with the fingers feeling frozen until about 9:30 am. The ride otherwise went well. The shuttle bus ride took us through Topaz, and then south on 395 down to Bridgeport.

Luther Pass?

Luther Pass?

Übernachten hier. Blick droben am Dach - gibt es einen Mann im Fass so dass  du kannst die Fussen sehen

Übernachten hier. Blick droben am Dach – gibt es einen Mann im Fass so dass du kannst nur die Fussen sehen

10SEPT2013- VCS to Lee Vining via Bodie. We were given three options regarding rides before going down to Lee Vining. Jon and I went to Bodie, which is now a ghost town, but once had a population of 15000.  It is now a state park.  The ride was quite a climb, but three miles before the town of Bodie, the road turned into gravel. Unfortunately, the gravel was loose and irregular, making it very challenging to travel on.  Jon and I got shuttled to the town, but on return, the bicycle rack came loose, so we rode the last 50 meters of gravel. Quite a few people actually rode the gravel. The last 19 miles was a ride south to Lee Vining, a small town just below Mono Lake.   The only obstacle was Conway Pass, made most difficult by roadwork, giving large trucks and bicyclists the same lane to contend with.

Where the road to Bodie turns to gravel

Where the road to Bodie turns to gravel

The church in Bodie - as dead as the town

The church in Bodie – as dead as the town

Main street USA

Main street USA

The mines of Bodie

The mines of Bodie

The upper class part of town

The upper class part of town

Conway Summit

Conway Summit

Mono Lake view

Mono Lake view

Another view of Mono Lake more easterly

Another view of Mono Lake more easterly

11SEPT2013- Tioga Pass. This was a there-and-back experience. The climb was a little over 3000 feet, putting us right at the entrance of Yosemite Park. It took us 2 hours to climb, and a most beautiful experience. It was a steady 6-7% grade with a good road surface and adequate shoulder.  My only regret was that we didn’t continue riding down to Tuolomne Meadows, another 8 miles and 1500 feet of elevation back. Oh well. I had done the Pass from the other side on the Tacx trainer, and remember it more difficult than our experience today. It took only 1/2 hour to get down, also an awesome ride with minimal traffic.

The start of Tioga Pass

The start of Tioga Pass

The summit of Tioga Pass off in the distance

The summit of Tioga Pass off in the distance

A Lake near the top of Tioga Pass

A Lake near the top of Tioga Pass

Tioga Pass Lake

Tioga Pass Lake

Jon and I at the summit of Tioga Pass

Jon and I at the summit of Tioga Pass

The Sedona Kid (Norm) also makes it up Tioga Pass

The Sedona Kid (Norm) also makes it up Tioga Pass

12SEPT2013- Lee Vining to Mammoth. This included an appendage 1200 ft 5 mile climb up to a series of lakes sitting north of Mammoth. We took the scenic route into Mammoth, rather than the highway. Since we arrived in Mammoth early (about 11 am), Jon and I decided to head up to Lake Mary. It started to drizzle once at Lake Mary, and so returned to the RV camp in Mammoth where we were staying.

Lake on the June Lake Bypass

Lake on the June Lake Bypass

Deadman's Pass

Deadman’s Pass

Lake Mary

Lake Mary

13SEPT2013- Today was exploration out of the town of Mammoth.  Our first venture went toward the Devils Postpile, but stopped where one entered the park, where there was a great view of the Minarets. Afterwards, Jon and I decided to return to Lake Mary, and go beyond. Oddly, the climb today now seemed much shorter than yesterday, and we had the wonderful opportunity of Tom S. giving us a guided tour of the entire area around Lake Mary, including Twin Lakes, and Horseshoe Lake. Horseshoe Lake was unusual, in that seismic activity has caused carbon dioxide to come up from the ground and kill many of the surrounding trees.

Wandblumen

Wandblumen-Tom, Pete, Norm

Wandblumen at Horseshoe Lake

Wandblumen at Horseshoe Lake

14SEPT2013- The trip home. We were shuttled back to where our cars were parked today. The bus trip was a 4 hour venture. Jon and I promptly loaded our cars and headed home. We arrived in Puyallup at 0130 the next morning, a 13 hour drive through Susanville, Klamath Falls, Bend, Government Camp, and up I-5 to Puyallup. We were tired but had a great time.

Thoughts on the trip:

1. It was a delight to have time with Jon. We need to do this more.

2. The Adventure Cycle Association could not have done a better job at running this tour. The staff were all quite enthused about cycling, and the organization was impeccable. We had to make some unfortunate serious changes to the original route plan. This was in our best interest, and worked out quite well. I can highly recommend this trip (or any trip with the ACA). Special thanks to Melinda, Meredith, Cammie, Jerry, Don, and Bob, you all were fantastic!

3. Camera – The problem with the Canon EOS M camera is that in bright sunlight, it is impossible to see exactly what is being displayed on the screen. I guess I’m too used to looking through a viewfinder. Also, a better variety of lenses is imperative. I’m thinking that this camera is my best option for road biking. Perhaps the new Canon SL1 (super-light slr camera) with 18 mpx and a 18-135 mm zoom would be a lighter option for when I’m on my CoMotion. I’m not going to rush out and buy yet another camera, as I love my Canon 6D, but it is heavy, and best served with a tripod to give the best possible landscape photos.

4. Arriving back in Puyallup, I’m in the rain and again fighting cancer. It’s hard to return to reality. I always rode by bike in the rain and snow when I was a kid, so why is it a problem now?  Does everybody become soft when they become an old fart? This morning, I did the TacX trainer ride up the west side of Tioga Pass and konked out at two hours, drenched in sweat. I think I need another bicycle vacation.

Iron Horse Trail to Snoqualmie Pass

September 17th, 2013

IronHorse-3Iron Horse Trail over Snoqualmie Pass –

The Iron Horse Trail goes across much of Washington state, though it has its interruptions in various spots. The trail is a converted rail track, and is almost entire gravel, thus best meant for mountain bikes or fat tire bicycles. There are a number of tunnels on the trail, including the 2.5 mile tunnel under Snoqualmie Pass.

East side of tunnel

East side of tunnel

West side of tunnel

West side of tunnel

The trail goes over some of the existing railroad bridges. The sights are a beauty. The only problem with the trail is that it parallels I-90, so that one is always able to hear the roar of traffic off in the distance. Except for that, the condition of the trail is excellent, and it never goes over a 3-4% grade. One does need headlights for the tunnel, as it is pitch-black inside. The day that I rode the trail, the weather was good, and so there were many people on the trail. It appeared as though parents would drop groups of children off at the top of the trail (by the tunnel) and then pick them up at the bottom. Those poor children never had the opportunity of what was most enjoyable about the trail, which is the joy of riding UP the trail.

Railroad bridge

Scene of the mountains from the Iron Horse trail

Scene of the mountains from the Iron Horse trail

The Garmin data are as follows…

By the way, I also saw a number of touring bicycles going over the pass. I’m sure they were headed for the distant eastern Washington. I wish them happy trails in their journeys.

Cycling from Salem to Hood River

August 24th, 2013

SalemHoodRCycle-2

 

Salem, Oregon to Hood River, Oregon on bicycles with Aaron Hughes 21-24 August

Day #1 – Salem to Detroit
I stayed overnight with Aaron and Anita, so that Aaron and I could be on the road by 9 am. We took off, following the main highway out of Salem and across Santiam Pass. Our first stop was in Detroit.

The "other" Detroit, which is not going backrupt

The “other” Detroit, which is not going bankrupt

The Garmin map and stats of Day #1 are here…

We stayed in a motel in Detroit, and generally rested up that evening.

Day #2 – Detroit to Timothy Lake
This was the most challenging day, with over 6000 feet of climbing (according to the Garmin). The started at Detroit, heading up the Clackamas River Road past Breitenbush, until the turnoff logging road took us straight up to Timothy Lake. At Timothy Lake, I set up camp, while Anita met us and ran away with Aaron for the night. I camped out at the lake. I did my homework, and learned that the Cove Campground was intended for bicyclists and hikers. When we arrived there, it proved to be anything but that, and the campground hosts rudely informed me that I wasn’t welcome, since everything was full. Fortunately, there were three guys with their kids who immediately offered to let me stay on a corner of their campsite. I had a few beers with them, and offered them cigars. It was a nice evening. The photos were from the lake the evening and morning of my stay.

Riding along the Clackamas River road

Riding along the Clackamas River road

My one man tent and bicycle

My one man tent and bicycle

Timothy Lake

Timothy Lake

Timothy Lake

Timothy Lake

More Timothy Lake

More Timothy Lake

The Garmin data for day 2 are here

Day #3 Timothy Lake to Hood River
Overnight, it had rained quite hard, with thunder and lightning. I stayed dry, but most everything else got wet. I slept in a bit longer than I should have, since I knew I had to meet Aaron and Anita at the junction of highway 26 and 35. Putting away a completely soaked tent, I headed off at about 8 am, saying goodby to my kindly hosts. It was a rather persistent climb to our treffpunkt, but arrived only about 6 minutes late, feeling like dogmeat. I was really tempted to have Anita shuttle me to the top of Bennett Pass, but ultimately decided against that. I had already gone over Blue Box Pass, and we had two more passes to negotiate, that over Barlow and that over Bennett Pass. My legs hung in there, though I did have to walk short distances just to utilize other muscles. Here are photos of the day…

Summit of Blue Box Pass

Summit of Blue Box Pass

Mount Hood from the road

Mount Hood from the road

Meeting Aaron at the junction of 26 and 35.

Meeting Aaron at the junction of 26 and 35.

Barlow Pass Summit

Barlow Pass Summit

Aaron showing good form

Aaron showing good form

Mount Hood from White River

Mount Hood from White River

Aaron patiently waiting for the tortoise to catch up

Summit of Bennett Pass

Mount Hood from the fruit orchards of the Hood River valley

Mount Hood from the fruit orchards of the Hood River valley

The Garmin stats for day 3

Our grand total stats are as follows… total distance 165.89 miles, 12,651 feet of elevation gain, and minimally 7000 calories burned. The road would be rated as five stars from Stayton on, but maybe would have gone backroads out of Salem. The arrival into Hood River was also slightly off of our planned route, putting us into the heart of nasty traffic in Hood River. The entire trip had enormous beauty, and was a superb choice. So, we are already planning a trip for next year. If we could get a SAG vehicle, then Aaron and I will do the Pacific Coast starting in Astoria. We would ride lighter bicycles, and do more distance. We’ll see. In two weeks, I do an ACA tour with Jonathan on the east side of the Sierras, so you’ll be seeing a blog of that trip soon.

Adventures

July 27th, 2013

1. Adventure #1 – cycling with Aaron in the Willamette Valley 12-13JUL2013

Oddly, I didn’t get any cycling photos, as I didn’t want to carry a heavy camera along, and I was riding my new Gran Feuchto, which doesn’t have any racks.  You can see the course of the rides for each of the two days here…

a) Saturday

b) Sunday 

Here of some photos that were taken while NOT riding…

Aaron and I relaxing on the back porch

Aaron and I relaxing on the back porch

Aaron reading in the backyard Hammock

Aaron reading in the backyard Hammock

Anita in the garden. They have raised gardens.

Anita shows her green thumb in the garden. They have raised gardens.

The backyard greenhouse

The backyard greenhouse

Aaron built a shed in the backyard with an extension to hold a hammock. A MOST brilliant idea!

Aaron built a shed in the backyard with an extension to hold a hammock. A MOST brilliant idea!

2. Adventure #2 – Backpacking with the Flanagan Grandchildren to Summit Lake 19-20JULY2013.

I had promised Patrick and Sammy a backpacking trip this year, but wasn’t feeling in tiptop shape so decided on a shorter hike, 2.5 miles but mostly straight up. We decided that since the hike was short, we would also take Ethan. The kids were a total joy to have along, watching them discover the delights of getting out into the wild and discovering the unknown.

Summit Lake. The hill in the background is what we were standing on in the next photo.

Summit Lake. The hill in the background is what we were standing on in the next photo.

A wonderful view of Mt. Rainier from Summit Hill

A wonderful view of Mt. Rainier from Summit Hill

 

The loop around the lake without our packs on

The loop around the lake without our packs on

 

Patrick in great style. The kids were frequently preoccupied with the snow.

Patrick in great style. The kids were frequently preoccupied with the snow.

 

Massive fields of glacier lilies were noted. They grow only in a small region of the NW.

Massive fields of glacier lilies were noted. They grow only in a small region of the NW.

Tired children reluctant to wake up the next morning.

Tired children reluctant to wake up the next morning.

Three happy children and one happy dad at the end of the trip.

Three happy children and one happy dad at the end of the trip.

This was the first trip in which I was able to utilize my new camera, an EOS M. It is a mirrorless camera, with the same resolution and controls as most of the EOS rebel line, 18 MPixel, APC format, but with interchangeable lenses. Its action in focusing and taking photos is a little slow, which okay for mostly scenic and landscape photos. There is no flash, but I have a very small flash designed to work with the camera. One can also put a gps apparatus on the camera.

Canon EOS M.

Canon EOS M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dean Kenneth Crum

July 27th, 2013

Dean-1Dean Kenneth Crum, born 09JULY2013 to Doug and Diane Crum. Yet another grandchild, making it 8. He’s a real cutie, and well behaved. May he always grow in wisdom and strength and love for the Lord. Opa will need to take him on his first backpack trip, and help him enjoy his first cigar and beer.

Maiden Voyage of Gran Feuchto

July 11th, 2013

waffen-1Yesterday I picked up my new bicycle. It is a BMC Gran Fondo GF01. It has Shamal Campy wheels, Super Record Campy components (compact chainring, 12-29 cassette), Look pedals, Continental 4-season 700 x 28 tires.

I had extreme hesitation taking the bike out, since I really felt washed out on the last ride (see my last post), and hadn’t ridden at all otherwise since my right shoulder dislocated (again, see my last post). I also had not ridden hard in over a month, from before Jonny and I went to Germany.  I had visions of my wheels slipping out, and re-crashing. The memory of the e-bike incident stuck hard in my head with numerous flashbacks. So, I approached the ride with extreme caution. My highest speed was 64 km/hr. I purposely attacked a series of hills having 18-20% grade. I went a little over 68 km. The ride can been seen on my Garmin page

Assessment. . .

1. It’s the most comfortable bike I’ve ever ridden on. Many of the roads were in terrible shape, and the bicycle handled bumps quite nicely. The frame has enough give to give a smooth ride.

2. The handlebars were several centimeters closer to me than I’m used to. I’m not sure if that is good or bad.

3. Shifting is awesome.

4. I bicycle is very comfortable on hills. It has a slight tendency on the steepest hills to want to do a “wheely”, but the bicycle is also the most comfortable I’ve ever ridden while peddling in the standing position.

5. The bicycle has incredible response to pedaling. This was a most favorable feeling; when you kicked up speed, the bicycle was not sluggish in accelerating.

6. Downhill handling was comfortable. Though I could have gone faster, never did I feel the bicycle wobble or give a sense of instability.

So, I think it was a worthy purchase. I still love my Steelman, and will use both bicycles.

Adventures in up-state Michigan

July 7th, 2013

Michigan2013-18

Adventures in up-state Michigan, with Dr. Peter T.

Peter and I had been planning this trip for many moons now, down to minor details. Actually, most of the planning was actually done by Peter, and he did a most masterful job of it, even with the foibles that will be noted below. I had arranged with AirCaddy.com and shipbikes.com to get my Randonee touring bicycle back to Michigan. I didn’t want to take my better bicycle, the CoMotion for fear of anything happening to it untoward. The bicycle arrived in Harbor Springs in mint condition.

I arrived in Harbor Springs in far less than mint condition. Two weeks before I was to fly out to Detroit to meet Peter, I was in a bicycle accident. I went for a bicycle ride along the Orting Trail with Betsy, she riding her new Stromer e-bicycle, and me on another bicycle. She was experiencing some discomfort in her buttocks, as is usual when one climbs on a bicycle and rides for 15+ miles, and so decided to call it quits. I ran ahead to get the car. After coming back to where she was waiting for me, I decided to ride the e-bike home and let her drive the car home. Without thinking, I jumped on the bicycle and started pedaling before I was situated on the bicycle. The bicycle power assist kicked in unexpectedly and threw me quite violently down onto the pavement. I noticed some shoulder pain and pain in the side, but didn’t think much of it. I soon realized that I was a touch more injured that I thought. After a quick shower, Betsy took me to the hospital ER, where they found my shoulder in a subluxed (partially dislocated) posterior position. It was the same shoulder that I had anterior dislocated several times while rock climbing, and subsequently had a Bristow repair. It worked at preventing an anterior dislocation, but did nothing to stop a posterior dislocation, which can be a bit more serious. The ER doc got my shoulder back in, and during the next week, I discovered massive bruising over my entire right side, especially over my thigh and leg. I could barely walk. The ER doc told be to leave my shoulder in a sling, something which actually increased my pain, and so I removed it. When I arrived in Detroit, I was on Oxycodone and in serious enough pain that I was only sleeping 3-4 hours/night. Peter didn’t realize that he was taking a total train wreck on an adventure.

Peter was waiting for me at the airport, and our first stop that evening while driving up to Harbor Springs was at Frankenmuth. Frankenmuth is a little vacation village north of Detroit with a distinctly German theme. We stopped for German food, which was given to us in excess, but fitted the bill of being delectable. Quite late that night we arrived at Summerview, Peter’s vacation home in up-state Michigan. My bicycle arrived intact via FedEx (see shipbikes above) and was easily reassembled.

29JUN – trial run – we rode our bicycles from Harbor Springs to Petosky, and had lunch in Petosky before riding back. The weather was cool, but with very few clouds. The week before was quite rainy. Final preparations were made for our adventure. We did a short paddle kayak ride on the bay to help warm up our feet.

Peter in Petoskey

Peter in Petoskey

Summerview

Summerview

Summerview Inside

Summerview Inside

30JUN – Day #1, Harbor Springs to Beaver Island
The ride initially paralleled our ride yesterday to Petoskey, after which we headed south. After rounding several large lakes and crossing a small ferry, we arrived in Charlevoix in order to catch the ferry to Beaver Island which left at 14:30. Beaver Island by ferry took over 2.5 hours.

Boyne City, on Lake Charlevoix

Boyne City, on Lake Charlevoix

Peter in Boyne City

Peter in Boyne City

Ferry ride #1 of 5

Ferry ride #1 of 5

The Beaver Islander ferry

The Beaver Islander ferry

01JUL – Day #2, Beaver Island to Indian River
Because the ferry didn’t leave the island until until 11:20, Peter and I had some time to explore part of the island by bicycle. Most of the roads on the island are dirt roads, and not very stable, with a lot of loose sand and gravel. Once the ferry  brought us back to Charlevoix, the ride was at first the most beautiful of all along the lower lip of Little Traverse Bay en route to Petoskey. Past Petoskey, it was another story. Pickerel Lake Road was a bit hilly for my traumatized corpse, but then we hit some gravel road, which was truly not nice. Gravel can be fun to ride on, but this wasn’t. It was loose scree and quite unstable, while the last thing I needed was another fall. We finally made it to Indian River, and not having had lunch, had hoped for a restaurant or store close to our reserved cabin. The cabin ended up being five miles out of Indian River. We arrived there about 6 pm, and everything was closed. It was a resort with cabins beside a lake. It looked great on the website, and was quite adequate for us, but not exactly what the webpage pictured it as. Everything was closed, and dinner would have meant a 5 mile ride back into town. So, dinner became a whiskey sour, gummy bears, and a good cigar. We survived.

King Doug's place on Beaver Island

King Doug’s place on Beaver Island

The cycle route to Petoskey

The cycle route to Petoskey

 

Little Traverse Bikepath was well marked

Little Traverse Bikepath was well marked

02JUL – Day #3, Indian River to St. Ignace via Mackinac Island
The ride to Mackinaw City was quite pleasant, being either quiet country roads or well-graveled rails-to-trails paths. Cheboygan was our first stop for breakfast at Bob’s Big Boy. We then stayed on the highway to Mackinaw City, caught the ferry to Mackinac Island, and did the obligatory loop of the island by bicycle. Mackinac Island does not permit automobiles or motorized vehicles, and so there were many bicycles and horse-drawn carraiges on the island. It was a beautiful tourist trap par excellence, but that did not lessen the delights of beer and ice cream on the island. From the island, the ferry took us to St. Ignace, where we stayed at an old historic hotel, the Boardwalk, right across from the ferry terminal.

Breakfast with Bob

Breakfast with Bob

Ferry #4 to Mackinac Island

Ferry #4 to Mackinac Island

 

Mackinac Island street scene

Mackinac Island street scene

Mackinac Island horse carraiges

Mackinac Island horse carraiges

 

Ferry #5 - a fast ferry

Ferry #5 – a fast ferry

03JUL – Day #4, St. Ignace to Harbor Springs

We had breakfast at the hotel and headed off. They do not allow bicycles on the bridge, and so we had to identify an obscure point where one caught the shuttle. The Garmin map shows us doing a few loops in search of a wooded footpath that took us to the toll gate at the north end of the Mackinac Bridge. Back in Mackinaw City, we headed west along upper Lake Michigan to Cross Village. On the way, we encountered some beautiful sand dunes where we stopped for a rest. From Cross Village, the road went inland and hilly, but never steep. It was typical forest and meadow as is seen in upper Michigan.

Awaiting the shuttle to take us across the Mackinac Bridge

Awaiting the shuttle to take us across the Mackinac Bridge

04JUL – rest day, not doing much. I re-packaged my bicycle, as Peter went to pick up Tina. We went into town to watch fireworks. I felt like I was in a Twilight Zone episode, a thing of the past, with lots of American flags, and red, white, and blue banners decorating the homes. There were many families out for the evening, eating ice cream cones and walking the streets.

05JUL – sailing. Peter decided to get out the sail boat and go for a ride. Tina and I haplessly accompanied Peter on an adventure across the lake, having no clue as to how to sail a sailboat. Fortunately, Peter knew what to do, and we had a marvelous as well as very sunny time on Little Traverse Bay. It’s amazing how peaceful it is on a sailboat.

The boat

The boat

Admiral Peter takes the helm

Admiral Peter takes the helm with Tina watching

Full sail into the bay

Full sail into the bay

First mate Ken

First mate Ken

 

06JUL – it’s never easy to say goodby when one has had a great time. I was feeling better, and the bicycle ride actually removed most of my aches. The Detroit area had many boarded up homes, and the airport was rather empty. It was nice to see Betsy again as I hit down at SeaTac Airport.

Total Ride Statistics

Day #1  69.56 km, time 4:38, 467 meters elevation gain, 2265 cal, 15 km/hr average speed

Day #2 85.29 km, time 4:57, 665 meters elevation gain, 2658 cal, 17.3 km/hr average speed

Day #3 74.07 km, time 4:00, 345 meters elevation gain, 2086 cal, 18.8 km/hr average speed

Day #4 69.83 km, time 3:37, 569 meters elevation gain, 2353 cal, 19.9 km/hr average speed

Total 298.75 km  (186 miles), time 17 hours and 12 minutes, 2046 meters climbed (6713 feet), 9362 calories burned up just from riding.

It is interesting that it appeared that our performance seemed to improve day by day, and since I was slowing down Peter, probably suggested that I was recovering from the trauma several weeks ago.

 

Deutschland 2013

June 18th, 2013

Germany2013-107

Germany with Jonny


My first trip to Germany was in 2003, with Rachel and Diane. Now, I am here with Jonny.  We spent the last few months organizing this trip, intending it at first to be oriented around bicycles. That became logistically challenging, and so I needed to change the trip to focus on what I felt to be important. Our focus was on friends, the Reformation, and music, especially JS Bach.

25MAY-26MAY – the plane left fairly early from Seattle, stopping in Chicago for a five hour lay-over. We arrived in Dùsseldorf at 10 am on 26 MAY. We dropped off our luggage at the Schließfach in the Hauptbahnhof, found our way to the Altstadt and Rhein, had a Döner, picked up our bags, and headed to our hotel. We immediately crashed. Later, we walked back to the Altstadt for dinner. Herbert, unfortunately, had recent doggie problems as well as internet problems, and so we were unable to connect with him.

 

27MAY- Kõln – After having breakfast at the hotel, we wandered down to the train station, and hopped the train to Köln. It was a 1/2 hour ride, with the train leaving us right beside the Köln cathedral (Kölner Dom). After touring the church, we tried to go up into the towers, but that was no longer permitted. We spent much time walking the streets of Köln, going to the Minoritenkirche, where the grave of Johannes Duns Scotus lies. Jonny and I had a bier at the Früh Brauerei, and then walked across the Rhein on the rail and foot bridge, After eating, having a bretzen and Berliner, we headed back to Dūsseldorf. We again went for a walk to the Altstadt, stopping for a bier, and later a Döner. It was a full day!

Kölner Dom

Kölner Dom

 

28MAY-Heidelberg- We arrived at 10 am in Heidelberg. The hotel was immediately next to the train station, so I thought we could try to drop our bags off, since it would be a long walk to the city center. They ended checking us in right then. Jon and I then took off to the city. The main street was about 1.5 km from the train station, and is several km long, lined with touristy shops and restaurants. We visited the Heilig Geist Kirche, where Olivianis and Ursinis preached.  After crossing the Alte Brüche, we ascended a steep winding path called the Schlangen Weg, to come to the Philosophen Weg. We sat there for a bit, watching the clouds all disappear into a gorgeous day, philosophized, appreciated gorgeous views of the city, and then returned. The Heidelberg Castle was next on our list, a short climb from the Altstadt, and noting the moderate number of walls destroyed in the numerous wars that the town had to suffer through. After a bit more beer (Heidelberg beer of course), we retreated back to the hotel for a snooze.

 

Schloss Heidelberg

Schloss Heidelberg

29MAY- Leinach/Würzburg. Today was a busy day. After waking up early and hurrying to the train station, Jonny and I got on the train to Würzburg, transferring in Frankfurt. Hannes picked us up in Retzbach-Zellingen, and took us immediately to Festung Marienburg, the large fortress in Würzburg. Würzburg was uniquely controlled by an archbishop that was also a prince, called an Fürst-Erzbischoff. The fortress was immense and quite spectacular, one of the many homes in the Würzburg area for the archbishop. One of the chambers was a prison cell where the famous artist Reimenschneider was incarcerated for nine months for assisting in the peasants’ war. We returned to Leinach, and moaned over the absence of Herbert.  We then took off to dinner. This was at a hospital in Würzburg started in the 16th century by one of the rulers of Würzburg, the hospital being called Juliusspital. It was an amalgam of part of a medical school, the Röntgen institute (where x-rays were discovered, a hospital, and, to fund the entire venture, a massive (and I really mean massive) winery. After dinner, we toured the winery and then had a long wine-tasting session. The wines were completely superb. Arriving back home, we discovered with great delight that Herbert had arrived and was waiting for us. This ended up being a late night, chatting with Herbert and catching up on matters. The day was quite cold and rainy, and my only regret was that I did not bring my camera for the tour of the Juliusspital. It was like nothing you’d ever find in America, a large winery connected to a famous medical institution. Interestingly, the hospital was largely destroyed in WWII, and so the hospital moved down into the wine cellar until the hospital could be rebuilt. It was a most fascinating day.

 

Festung Marienburg in Würzburg

Festung Marienburg in Würzburg

 

Herbert

Herbert

 

Large Riemenschneider carving

Large Riemenschneider carving

 

Katja, Hannes, Herbert

Katja, Hannes, Herbert

30MAY- Today, we first took Gustav for a walk among the wheat and raps fields out in the countryside. We then took a long drive to Rothenburg, an old medieval city that is still fully operational, though entirely for tourists. On the way to Rothenburg, we stopped in a small church that housed one of the spectacular Riemenschneider carvings. We had dinner at Hannes and Katja’s, and enjoyed the Gemütlichkeit of good friends.

 

Rothenberg

Rothenberg

31MAY- Jonny and I took off early to the train depot, And had a comfortable ride from Retzbach to Würzburg to Fulda and finally to Leipzig. Here we met Carsten at the Bahnhof, checked into our hotel, re-connected for coffee, and then spent several hours at the Bach museum. Finally, we went to Carsten and Annett’s house for a barbecue. It was most wonderful, meeting up with the family again. While waiting for Carsten before coffee, we visited the Thomaskirche, where we were able to see a portion of a practice performance of Wachet Auf.

 

Jonny and I with Carsten

Jonny and I with Carsten

 

Rabea lights the bbq

Rabea lights the bbq

01JUN- Today was very busy with Carsten and Annett. We started out at a museum that documented the DDR years in East Germany. It was well done, and portrayed much of both politics and daily life in the DDR. We then went to Carsten’s parents for lunch and had rabbitt. It was very good. A mad dash to the church allowed us to enjoy a service with the Thomanerchor. They performed Jesu meine Freude, as well as Wachet auf. I got to chat briefly with the cantor Georg Christoph Biller afterwards; he is a very kindly humble man. We visited a large artificial lake outside of Leipzig, and then watched some football (FC Munchen v Stuttgart), and finally took a long walk downtown in the rain. It was hard to say goodby.

 

Thomanerchor in the Thomas Kirche

Thomanerchor in the Thomas Kirche

 

Jonny at the top of the Thomas Kirche

Jonny at the top of the Thomas Kirche

02JUN- Eisenach… Boarding the train early from Leipzig, we headed off to Eisenach. On arrival, we first headed to the church where Luther did many of his first sermons, located right at the city gate. We then headed off to the church where Luther also preached, but where JS Bach was baptized. There was a service going on, so we we unable to go into the church. We dashed off to the Bach Haus, where Bach was probably born. They had turned it into a museum, that had an excellent exhibit of his life and compositions. We then strolled on a forest path up to the Wartburg, where we experienced a tour in English. One of the first stops was the Elizabeth Kaminate, where the Saint Elizabeth from Hungary lived, and who Betsy was named after. It was the most beautiful room of the castle. The last stop on the tour was the Lutherstube where Luther translated the New Testament into the German language. We then headed back the forest path to the train station to Erfurt.

 

Bachhaus Eisenach

Bachhaus Eisenach

 

Festung Wartburg

Festung Wartburg

 

Lutherstube

Lutherstube

03JUN- Erfurt and Weimar. After waking up, we headed into the old town where we crossed the Krämer Brucke, the oldest bridge in recorded history in which shops lined the sides of the bridge. We went to the Augustiner Kloster where Luther became a monk, and saw rooms where he lived and prayed. This was a guided tour, though in German, and a little more extensive than the last time I visited with Herbert and Betsy. We then headed to the Erfurter Dom, a huge church, now Catholic again, on the edge of town. This was the largest church in town, though it only seats a few people. Next to it is the smaller but roomier St. Severus church. After having a Thüringer Bratwurst mit Brötchen, and Budweiser beer (the real Budweiser), we headed back to the train station, and went to Weimar. Weimar was a little more relaxed, with lots of Shiller and Goethe sites, the giant Palace that became the headquarters of the Weimar Republic, and a stroll in the park took us to the house where Liszt lived for a few years. We were ultimately exhausted, and headed back to the hotel, stopping for dinner on the way.

 

Erfurt  - the oldest ever built up bridge over a river

Erfurt – the oldest ever built up bridge over a river

 

Jonny sitting in Luther's spot in church

Jonny sitting in Luther’s spot in church

 

Luther's Schlafzimmer

Luther’s Schlafzimmer

 

Erfurter Dom

Erfurter Dom

 

Jonny enjoys a brat and Budweiser outside the Erfurter Dom

Jonny enjoys a brat and Budweiser outside the Erfurter Dom

 

Liszt Haus in Weimar

Liszt Haus in Weimar

04JUN- Lutherstadt Wittemburg. Today predominated in train travel. We got up early, hopped the train to Leipzig, and then transferred to go to Lutherstadt Wittemburg. A long walk into town gave us a nice glimpse at the historical sights of Wittemburg. Lunch was at a potato restaurant, that was surprisingly good. Our only great disappointment was that the castle church was under heavy reconstruction and thus not open. A long trainride into München put us into town fairly late in the evening. We checked into our hotel, did a quick dash into town, and crashed.

City square in Lutherstadt Wittemburg with Luther Denkmal

City square in Lutherstadt Wittemburg with Luther Denkmal

 

05JUN- Today centered on Schloss Nymphenburg. We walked into town in the morning, saw the Hofbrauhaus and Viktualenmarkt, and then headed on a very long walk to Schloss Nymphenburg. It remained a very impressive palace, after the style of Versailles, incredibly decorated and with massive gardens and elaborate grden houses. There is also a museum in the castle with sleds and carriages, that were stunning in their elaborate detail and artistry.

 

Carraiges in Schloss Nymphenburg

Carraiges in Schloss Nymphenburg

 

Schloss Nymphenburg

Schloss Nymphenburg

 

Grounds surrounding Schloss Nymphenburg

Grounds surrounding Schloss Nymphenburg

 

One of the buildings in the Schloss Nymphenburg estate,  intentionally designed to look like a ruined building

One of the buildings in the Schloss Nymphenburg estate, intentionally designed to look like a ruined building

 

Inside of above

Inside of above

06JUN- Salzburg is not in Germany, but right on the border, and I was able to use the Rail Pass to get us to this city. Going there was problematic in that a small portion of the track was under water, requiring a short interlude on the bus. Salzburg was as awesome as ever, with nice sunny weather. We walked by the Mozart Geburtshaus, but did not go in. We then went to the Festung Salzburg, the large castle that was inhabited by the Fürst-Erzbischoff of Salzburg. This gave incredible views of the city and surrounding mountains. We were back in München by 4 pm, and had dinner at the Hofbrauhaus.

 

Mozart's Geburtshaus

Mozart’s Geburtshaus

 

Salzburg from the castle

Salzburg from the castle

 

Jonny finds a friend

Jonny finds a friend

07JUN- Our last day in Germany was a relatively lazy day, with much walking but little strenuous exercise. Our first destination was the Alte Pinakotec museum, which held paintings of many of the old Dutch painters, including Rembrandt and a large Rubens collections, as well as many German painters, including Cranich and Dürer. The collection was quite awesome, and this museum is well worth a visit. We then went to the Englische Garten for lunch as the Biergarten close to the Chinesische Turm. It was a lazy walk home. That evening, we hopped the city trains to Rob and Jordan Rayburn’s house, and went out to dinner. It was nice seeing these two again, and glad that all is going well, though he is being deployed to Kuwait and she is due to have a baby in September.

 

Rembrandt painting in the Alte Pinakotek

Rembrandt painting in the Alte Pinakotek

08JUN- Home… unfortunately, we have to come home, and I was sorely missing Betsy. She happens to remain my favorite person in life. We had to wake up at 3:30 am, and then catch the S8 train to the airport. We flew first to Frankfurt, and then home, leaving Frankfurt at 10 am and arriving in Seattle at 11 am.

Next trip… hopefully it will be a bicycle ride. We should spend far less time in München, since it is the most expensive city in Germany. I’d like to explore more Southern Germany, the far North (Bremen, Nordsee, Ostsee), and Southeast, including the Schwarzwald, Trier, and areas around there. Hopefully, next time we can connect with the Fuch’s.

Oklahoma 2013

June 16th, 2013

Oklahoma-100

Oklahoma 11-14 APRIL 2013

This is a terribly late posting of a trip we did in April to Oklahoma. Since then, central Oklahoma, where we visited, has gone through some terrible tornadoes. Fortunately, it did not hit our friends. Our main purpose was to visit some old friends, Mark and Penny H. It was a wonderful trip, and always good to see friends that have been gone for a while. The flight was dreadfully long, needing to go through Houston, and thus us not arriving until late Thursday evening, and needing to leave early Sunday morning in order to get home in time for work on Monday. Our time was entirely focused around Mark and Penny. The first day was spent roaming their land, and going to walks.

The dog

The dog

Lindsey in the kitchen

Lindsey in the kitchen

The next day was spent with Mark and Penny downtown. We went out to dinner, and then toured downtown Oklahoma City. It was wonderful, as we did it in a horse and buggy. We even went to where the Oklahoma City bombing occurred. Nothing was left, as they removed the building and turned the square into a large park.

The buggy

The buggy

 

The horse

The horse

 

Place of the Oklahoma City bombing, with memorials to those who died

Place of the Oklahoma City bombing, with memorials to those who died

 

The presence of big oil in the city

The presence of big oil in the city

It was really nice seeing Mark and Penny again, and they will remain dear in our hearts. It’s nice to see their children growing up well, and maturing into young adults. Thank you, Mark and Penny, for the good time.

Oklahoma-103

 

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April 14th, 2013

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Noch ein Jahr vorbei

January 1st, 2013

Another year has gone by. The time is now for letter writing and receiving lengthy chronicles from your friends as to their activities over the last year. The chronicler must not only detail accurately the past year, but make life interesting enough that other people will be interested in reading the narrative. Bragging and hyperbole tend to force a loss of interest in the reader, yet is what is thought by the writer as the characteristic that makes the recall of a year interesting. I’ll try to avoid that. I’ll be following the rough outline from last year, so if last years’ post bored you to death, stop reading immediately and find something more interesting to gawk at.

Last year…

1. In March, the Miami breast cancer conference and SSO meeting both occurred in Florida close together, so I went to both. The Miami conference was a bore, and SSO conference in Orlando was fun, only because Peter Tate was there.

2. I went to Dayton with Russ in late April, and a week later to the ASBS with Betsy in Phoenix. Another ho-hum meeting was attended, though I did go to every talk and paid close attention to all.

3. June was spent enjoying Germany. Betsy went with, and got to meet Katja and Hannes, as well as Hille. We spent time with Robbie Rayburn and with Heinz and Debbie Fuchs. It was a super trip.

4. July had the occasion to do Eagle Creek with Patrick and Andrew. Later, Betsy and I flew to Iowa to see Alex and Rachel. It was a delight.

5. August was the month for Diane’s wedding. Herbert came to visit. It was a delight having him around. Herbert is like a brother. I can talk to him, have fun with him, ask him advice, yet he is not offended by our differences.

6. September was started with the plan to ride bicycles from Eugene to Missoula with Russ. For various reasons, the trip was terminated prematurely in Grangeville, Idaho. It has caused me to re-think how I do tours.

7. The first part of November was the trip of a lifetime to Israel and Jordan with Betsy. Dr. John Delancey was a wonderful tour guide and made the trip particularly interesting.

Each of these trips has a blog page that you could surf to, so I will not reiterate what has already been said.

Plans for next year…

1. Betsy and I hope to visit the Heins in Oklahoma in February.

2. I will be doing a bicycle ride with the ACA in Death Valley in March.

3. In late May, early June, Jonny and I will be going to Germany. The goal is mostly to visit the Bach sites with Jonny, as well as touch base with old friends.

4. I plan on meeting Dr. Peter Tate and Dr. Ara Pridjian, old friends from residency, in July, to ride bicycles in Northern Michigan. Peter may throw in some sailing, which I’d love to try.

5. In September, Jonny and I will be doing an ACA ride called the Sierra Sampler, riding along the east side of Yosemite.

6. I’ll throw some meetings in there.

7. I was invited to China to teach surgery and English. This is in the tentative stages, and so have no definite plan yet. Meanwhile, I am vigorously learning Mandarin. Ni hau!

Music, Reading, Bicycle Riding, etc.

As of 31DEC2012, I yet have 57 days, 15 hours and 06 minutes of “unheard” classical music to listen to. I have heard everything at least once, but am working through my entire collection. Last year, I had over 90 days of music, and have added 5-7 days of music since to the collection, which has been listened to, including the Teldec Complete Bach (reviewed previously). Betsy and I will spend several evenings a week watching movies. We worked through the Joan Hickson editions of Miss Marple, and should be reviewed shortly. We are working on the Poirot series now, and detecting patterns in the writing of Agatha Christie. We have also watched a large portion of the Tom Baker years of Dr. Who.

For reading, I have gotten to I Kings in the through-the-Bible read, starting in mid-November. I am also reading Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology. A review will follow, but I will note that Hodge tends to address contemporaries that I have never heard of, making it less interesting than I had hoped. I am only about 20% through, so it might pick up. I wished to read Reymond’s systematic theology next, but was highly encouraged by Pastor Rayburn to attack Bavinck’s 4-volume set.  I’ll be reading more photography and photoshop books, and also want to have a slight mastery of Filemaker. That’s for next year.

Betsy and I made a fairly monumental decision to return to Faith Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, under the pastorship of Dr. Rayburn. It was a tough decision since we had friends at Resurrection Presbyterian Church, and appreciated the work of pastor David Scott. Going back to FPC gave Betsy and I the sense of returning home. There are those who might suspect a multiplicity of motives for our change of churches, but those suspicions would simply be conjecture that would probably not be true, so please do not read too much into our actions.

There are a few other details coming up in our lives that would be best recounted after they occur rather than before. We anticipate another grandchild with Diane, and look forward to the day when Rachel and Alex successfully adopt Lily. That will mean another trip for us to Iowa.

I now have an updated model of the TacX trainer (bicycle virtual reality trainer) in the garage which works better than the last, by not crashing so often. It has allowed me to use the bicycle I usually ride on to train, while giving me many strenuous, sweaty hours during the rainy season to still be riding my bicycle. The other “toy” of note has been my dream for a while. I got a Canon 6D for Christmas. I originally wished for a Canon 5DMarkIII, but the 6D had some options, such as gps, which makes it an ideal travel camera. It is full frame, and 20 megapixels. I hope to use my bicycle riding and hiking to be opportunity to get many more photos.

With Obama still in office, it has left some uncertainty regarding medicine. Medicare reimbursements are dropping by 29%, which means that we learn to live off of less, and consider other alternatives to medicine. With an insane tax structure, I have no interest in supporting Obama’s government, and so will take off as much time as possible to still maintain a surgical practice. Already, I am giving away nearly all of my abdominal cases, doing abdominal surgery only when I take call. ObamaCare has a way of taking the joy out of medicine.

 Pastor Rayburn last Sunday emphasized the wish that each of us grow stronger in Christ, and walk closer to Him. As I age, the days of my life look shorter and shorter. Rather than going out with a bang, I seek what John the Baptist said of Christ, “He must increase, and I must decrease”. That is my prayer for all that read this blog.

Thoughts on the Jewish-Arab conflict

November 29th, 2012

Having just gotten back from Israel, I seem to have stirred the ire of friends and relatives in my comments in support of Israel. So, I thought it best to not trivialize the topic and write a bit more in-depth about my thoughts. There was some correspondence on Facebook regarding these ideas, but I realized that the conversation had degenerated to thoughtless responses. Many people automatically form a party line, whether it be a Democratic party, Republican party, Ron Paul party, dispensationalist evangelical Christian party, and respond as such without thinking seriously about the situation.

First, there are a few definite points that I wish to make…

  1. I am not pro-Israel or pro-Jewish. I am not pro-Tazmania or pro-Madagascar. To a great extent, I am not even pro-USA, although I have pro-USA sentiments only in that this is my homeland.
  2. I am not pro-Arab, nor am I anti-Arab. Too many of my dear friends are Arabian, or Iranian, or Turkish or something of the like. The Jews tend to be better thinkers for intellectual conversation, but the Arabs/Iranians/Turks tend to be more enjoyable people as friends. It’s hard to be anti-Arab once you know a few of them. By the way, the term Arab is often confused with all Muslim mid-East peoples. This is a collosal mistake. Turkey and Iran, for instance, are NOT Arab. And, there are a large number of non-Muslim Arabs.
  3. I do not view Israel in an eschatological sense as referring to people in a homeland that is now referred to as Palestine. I am not dispensational, and do not consider the return of Jews to Palestine as of highthened significance or a reflection of the fulfillment of any prophecy, since I do not see the Jews as having found their Messiah.
  4. I am uncertain about the continued biblical significance of the city of Jerusalem. Is it the place where Christ returns? Does it remain special among the cities of the world in God’s eyes? I don’t think so.
  5. I find no good evidence to suggest that the Jews living in Palestine today are not descendants of Jacob, though not always descendants of Judah (thus, the slightly loose terminology, which I’ll persist in. I won’t use the term Judahite because I don’t use the term “Jew” to specifically refer to those from the tribe of Judah). There is exceedingly poor evidence that the “Jews” are actually a mishmash of Edomites and races other than people descendant from Jacob, and the evidence for British Israelitism is even worse.

I also have made various observations regarding the situation in Palestine…

  1. The news media often makes overt lies about the situation in Palestine, and often is exceedingly deceptive about the situation, usually always with a pro-Arab bias. It is nearly impossible to know the exact situation, and visitors to Israel will often come back with very mixed feelings about the situation. My sense of inability to know the truth of the situation has been criticised as being defeatist in suggesting that we can know no truth about the situation, thus not allowing us to make decisions about Israel. I agree, but, it is NOT ours to make decisions about Israel, as I’ll clarify later on.
  2. Arabs in Israel outside of Gaza are in a vastly better situation that Arabs anywhere else in the mideast. The average salary of an Arab in Jordan is $30 / month. The Arabs on the west bank has a vastly greater income, and this is true elsewhere in Israel outside of Gaza (I say that because I simply do not know the situation in Gaza). The Jewish situation has served the Arabs well, and many of them know and appreciate that.
  3. I am told that the current population of Israel is about 6 million Jews and 2 million Arabs. Many of these Arabs live outside of the west bank or Gaza and in Israel itself. There are many towns that are solely Arab, such as Cana and Nazareth. These Arabs are free to come and go as they please. Their land is not encroached on by Jews.
  4. There are a number of towns and locations in the West Bank that are completely off-limits to Jews except by special permission. These places include Jericho, Bethlehem, and many locations in the northern West Bank, such as at Shechem.
  5. Most of the Jews, as well as most of the Arabs, that I have gotten to know have had a desire for a peaceful resolution to the issues in Palestine. Neither group has had a strong desire to eliminate the other party. Most seem to express a bona fide desire for some sort of settlement of issues, even if it resulted in some personal loss.
  6. Unlike most Americans whose knowledge of history is shoddy, both the Jews and Arabs remember history. The Jews in particular have a very strong memory of the Masada, and swear to never allow that to happen again. They have a distinct memory of being cast out of Great Britain, Spain, Italy, France, Germany (the holocaust) and Russia. You can see this memory every day as you walk the streets of Jerusalem. They have a particular fixation on never loosing their homeland again.
  7. Hamas rhetoric has been defiant about challenging the Jewish right to their so-called homeland. Hamas has persistently stated their desire eliminate the Jews from Palestine. Hamas, if you’ve forgotten, has been voted in by the Gaza population in a democratic election.
  8. Many of the current Jews in Israel are descendant of those who came out of Russian, bringing the Marxist/Communist ideology with them, as noted in the formation of the Kibbutzim. External capital has been necessary because of this faulty economic ideology. Historically, much of the money has come from sordid sources, such as the Rothschilds. The Rothschilds seem to have promoted a number of European wars through their money lending, and have tended to seem more interested in profits than in peace. Whether they are a part of a vast conspiracy I’ll leave to others to decide, though the Rothschilds are on the lips of most conspiracy theorists.

A number of people have accused the Israelis of apartheid. Is that true? I’ve not been to South Africa to know and understand the nature of apartheid, but I fear the word “apartheid” might be used a bit too freely. Apartheid simply means separation on account of race. That’s a terrible definition in this setting, since it is mostly impossible to distinguish an Arab or Israeli by race alone. With their clothes off, they look alike! The real issue is cultural differences that separate the two factions. Arabs and Israelis dress differently, have different religions, behave differently, and have completely different goals and aspirations for themselves and for their land. If you wish to identify apartheid occurring, it must be on the basis of religion, economics, dress, or something else. Yet, isn’t that a phenomenon that occurs virtually everywhere in the world? Has Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, Europe, or the USA ever been seriously accused of apartheid? Yet, all countries have very distinct separation based on personal attributes. You can’t go to China or Japan and expect to be treated exactly like a Chinese or Japanese. I haven’t seen anybody accuse China or Japan of apartheid. So, I suppose, something else is really meant.

Could it be that the Israelis purposely force an economic disadvantage on their Arab countrymen? I can’t answer that question. The facts are quite obvious that Arabs tend to flock to Israel from the surrounding countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere because their is a strong economic advantage to living in Israel. Gaza inhabitants want the borders open because of the economic advantage of the Jewish influence, and wish to work and recreation in Israel proper. So, it is possible that the Arabs are relatively disadvantaged as compared to Jews, yet distinctly advantaged as compared to their treatment in other Arab lands. There are many stories of Israeli atrocities on the Arabs, and I suspect that many of them are true. Yet, it is difficult to be in such a removed position to act as the final arbitrator and judge on the situation. We are presuming too much! So, apartheid simply is a false accusation.

A pressing question is, whose land is it? I refer the reader to a documentary analysis of the land question in the book From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters. By strictly historical standards, it belongs to the Canaanites, since they owned it first. The Canaanites no longer exist. Philistines had a long occupation of the land, but they were invaders. The Israelites (and now Jews) have had the longest possession of the land, yet it was given to them by God on a conditional basis, which they have not met. The land was forcefully taken from them in a manner that defies description. The Muslims were invaders. Christians briefly owned the land during the Crusader era. The Ottomans (Turks) were the last owners before the British took occupation of the land. So, a historical precident goes weakly to the Jews. From a population point of view, during the Ottoman occupation, almost nobody lived in the land. Migrations began at the beginning of the 20th century, but these migrations were not natural, with the British forcefully blocking Jewish immigration in a near Nazi fashion. Even still, by 1948, there were approximately equal number of Arabs and Jews in the land. So, population itself does not answer the question. The West Bank was last owned by Jordan, who never had a longstanding right to ownership of that part of Palestine. The same goes to Egypt and the Gaza strip. The Golan is not heavily occupied, and mostly by Arabs that are disenfranchised from the Muslims of Syria, who (Syrians) also have no longstanding right to ownership of the land. TE Lawrence promised all of Palestine to the Arabs for their assistance in fighting the Germans, a promise made singularly and immediately not withheld by Great Britain, who also has no longstanding right to the land. On a simple land basis, Arabs own large portions of land within Israel proper. If Jews don’t belong in the West Bank, does the reciprocal idea hold true? Should the Jews force the Arabs out of Israel proper if the Jews are forced out of the West Bank? Jewish settlements in the West Bank have for the most part been purchased lands, and not “stolen” or booty of war, as the news media would lead you to believe. Perhaps the real apartheid is being forced by the Arabs on the Jews!

What is an appropriate military response of the Israelis to an attack on their area of Israel? Most people would respond that the Israelis have a right to respond, but that it needs to be a measured response commensurate with the destruction of the attack. Statistics are often given that show much greater damage and lives taken out by Israelis than by the Gaza Arabs. Two issues need to be clarified. First, when rockets are fired on a civilian population and statements made by the Palestinians that they intend to eliminate the state of Israel from the map, that does not sound like an act of terrorism, but rather, a declaration of war. Since when does a war limit the response of either party to commensurate damage? Secondly, the Palestinians have intentionally placed military operations in populated centers in order to stir an international reaction. The dupes are those Westerners who fail to take these matters into account and utilize the statistics for  precise analysis of the situation, and not emotional knee-jerk opinions.

I object seriously to the US response to the entire situation. Those who know me know that I am a Ron Paul supporter, and that I support his stance of aggressive non-intervention in the entire situation. I don’t always agree with the rationality of Ron Paul, but I do agree with his ultimate conclusion here. Ron Paul comments that we should should immediately cease and desist from supporting every faction in this conflict. I couldn’t agree more. Why are we sending millions of dollars into Israel, millions in Gaza, millions into Egypt, millions into Syria, and millions more into the other nations in the mid-east. Is this not serving the opposite of its intended purpose, by not forcing all parties to a more amicable solution.

Why has the church not developed a peaceful solution to the situation? Why have we not had our brightest and best thinkers propose solutions that would promote the Kingdom in the states of the mid-east? Why have we not insisted on non-military solutions? Where are the missionaries that could be streaming into these nations that need a true answer to the dilemma? Doesn’t Christ suggest that peacemakers are the most blessed of all people? Or, do we persist in the military rhetoric of the last 100 years that can peace comes through war? Hasn’t the last 100 years taught us that war only begets more war? If we honestly feel dispensational enough to think that the land of Palestine belongs to the Jews and that they need to re-conquer the land as Joshua through David did, are we willing to concede that genocide to wipe out the “heathen” populations of the land, as Joshua was commanded to do, would be appropriate? Or, do we find it strange that David employed many military personnel that were not Israelites! Perhaps you haven’t noticed that Bathsheba’s first husband was Uriah the Hittite, and he was listed as one of David’s mighty men?  Or, that David would sacrifice Israelites to avenge the wrongful deaths of Gibeonites, who were Canaanites? Clearly, the Scripture points to a higher ethic than just the preservation of a race.

The bible does ask Christians to do three responses for Israel. The first is to pray for peace in Jerusalem. When was the last time you did that, or the church specifically got together to pray for peace among Arabs and Israelis? Secondly, the church is to act as a peacemaker. When was the last time the church refused to take sides in the Arab/Israeli conflict in order to truly seek for a lasting peace? Thirdly, the church is responsible for promoting the kingdom. When was the last time the church considered bold responses in bringing the kingdom of God to Palestine? There are many Arab Christians, and a few Israeli (Jewish) Christians. Have we supported and prayed for their ministries? Have we fought for their freedom to deliver the gospel in Israel? It is said (I can’t verify it) that Israel is very restrictive to Christian missionaries—when was the last time the church filed a formal complaint to the US state department regarding this? Perhaps we are not quite so interested in peace and promoting the Kingdom of God as we’d like to think!

In conclusion, we Americans are poor arbitrators of the situation in Palestine. Our information is unreliable, and there are too many forces at play that we cannot account for. Besides, it is not ours to arbitrate and side one way or another. We must ask ourselves for biblical “Christian” solutions, and those solutions will be the most radical of all. The Arabs as well as the Israelis need Christ, and if that isn’t our highest priority and concern, then we’ve lost it.

Jordan-Israel Adventure Part 1

November 26th, 2012

Jordan/Israel Tour

Here is at last a brief summary of our Jordan-Israel tour. We took many photos, over 1300 actually, so only a few will be shown. Because of the length of this, I decided to split it up into three parts, published in reverse chronological order to make it flow normally.

Day 1/2—awoke at 3:30 am to get ready to go. We got to the Seatac airport by 6 am, and was hassle-free getting on the plane. The flight toDulles-Wasghington DC was 4.5 hours, and we then got to meet our companions. We lost three hours from jet-lag. The flight to Wien was overnight, an 8 hour endeavor, with another 5 hour jet-lag loss. The final trip from Wien to Amman was another 4.5 hours, 2 hours more jet-lag loss, and we hit Amman a bit tired, but ready to tour. Our first encounter was with Mo, who would be our guide for the Jordan duration of the tour. He was superb. We had dinner buffet style in the hotel, took a walk around town, and then crashed.

Day 3—awoke at 5:30 for breakfast at 7. We needed to be completely packed for breakfast, since the bus left immediately after breakfast., Our first stop was at the excavasion of  the large Roman Decapolis city of Jaresh, just outside of Amman, it was rather impressive for its size.

Mo

Amphitheater at Jaresh

Part of the group

From there, we went on to Mt. Nebo, where Moses viewed the promised land, The sky was a bit hazy, so you couldn’t see the best’. Jerico and the plains of the Jordan River stood out. The evening ended with a long ride through the desert in darkness to our hotel at Petra. A few people took a night walk through Petra, but Betsy and i decided to lay low and catch up on Jetlag.

 

Foggy view of Jericho from Mt. Nebo, standing exactly in the spot where Moses stood.

Day 4 Petra—  We were up early for our Petra adventure. They did a light show walk the night before, but Betsy and I turned it down. Petra is much different than I imagined. The Treasury is the most famous building, known to Indiana Jones fans, but the narrow passage is much longer than I thought,, and goes way beyond the Treasury. Betsy and I went beyond, up to the Monastery, where one could see the Negev, and the whole region. I also climbed up to another site, which was called the high place, where the Petra folk would hold sacrifices. It was about 15 miles of walking, and most of that was climbing, but well worth it.

 

Begin of the walk into Petra

Graves on the way into Petra

The walk into Petra, not with Indiana Jones but with Washington Betsy

The Treasury – actually a mortuary site

Camels guarding the Treasury

Trail up to the Monastery

Jon, Betsy, Lynn, Peta, and Ward resting from the climb

Still climbing

A view from higher up the Monastery trail

The Monastery

A marvelously beautiful lady waiting for me on top

Man with Hooka on the trail

Donkey on the Trail

Day 5—Aqaba and the Red Sea.  From Petra, we headed south on the main trade route across the mid-east, headed toward Aqaba. Half-way there, we stopped for a truck ride into the desert at Wadi Rum, made famous by Lawrence of Arabia. There is actually a mountain there called the seven pillars of wisdom. We stopped to visit some Beduins and buy tea from them. We Finally made it to a fancy Radisson hotel in Aqaba and enjoyed the sunset. We also learned of Obama making it a second term.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom in Wadi Rum

Desert Jeep ride

Bedoin Tent

The Desert

Betsy loved the camels

 

Aqaba, the Red Sea

Continued in Part 2…

 

Jordan-Israel Adventure Part 2

November 26th, 2012

Day 6—we took off from Aqaba to the Dead Sea by a circuitous route. The crossing into Israel demanded a change in buses. Our first stop was at the southern copper mines, with the pillars of Solomon. They had a mockup of the wilderness tabernacle here. We then traveled northeast to several very large craters south of the Negev. I was fairly overwhelmed by the irregularity of the landscape. I have no idea how Moses with a million plus people could have made it through. We stopped at the grave of Ben-Gurion,and was able to overlook the valley of Zin, where Moses sent out the spies to the land of Canaan. Finally, we made it to Dead Sea just as the sun was going down.

 

Temple mock-up

Overview of tabernacle

Wilderness of Zin

Day 7—An early rise and breakfast was followed by travel along the west coast of the Dead Sea. First, we stopped at the Masada, where in AD73 a group of Jewish zealots were finally brought to an end by the Romans building a massive siege ramp up to the fortress. This was followed by a hike up En-Gedi, where David encountered Saul in a cave. We stopped at Qumram, the site of discovery of the Dea Sea scrolls. Finally, there was a stop at the archeological dig at Jericho, where one could see the fallen walls of the old city. By then, nightfall had hit, and we drove up in darkness to Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee for our hotel.

 

Cable car to the top of the Masada

The cliffs off the top of the Masada, overlooking the Dead Sea

The Springs of en-Gedi

Rock Coney, at En-gedi

Jericho ruins

Day 8— This was a busy day. It had started raining, so that everything was quite muddy. We started out by going to the top of Arbel, a peak with a very steep cliff, and a similar adjoining mountain with a narrow canyon between.  It is in this canyon that the road from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee runs. We then went to Yardinit, where they have a commercial production of getting baptised or re-baptised. I was a bit astonished to find that Betsy and I were the only people in our group that said no to this. It is like suggesting to get re-circumcised. It cheapens baptism to a simple show or action that we do. Anyway, from there, we traveled to the town (excavation mostly) was Magda, which used to be one of the larger cities on the Sea of Galilee and from where Mary Magdalene came. Traveling north, we saw a boat which had been discovered in the mud of the sea of Galilee, and showed what a typical fishing boat it Jesus’ time looked like. We went out a short ways on the sea in a wooden boat, a form of crass commercialism that they called the Jesus-boat. We went up to the mount of the beatitudes, and, first avoiding the “church” the Papists built in the 1930s, but rather sat on the slope where Jesus probably gave his sermon. It was interesting that the stony ground of basalt amplified the voice in that area so that one could speak to a large crowd and be heard. Going inside the church was a small comedy that was more an idol to the Papists than a reverential area. We last went to Caperneum on the north side of the sea of Galilee, to see the synagogue where Jesus taught, and to see the alleged house of Peter. The Papists built a giant flying saucer over the home to protect it, which they also called a church. Back to our hotel in Tiberius, we were a little exhausted, enduring many crowds and a constant rain.

On top of Arbel, overlooking the Sea of Galilee

Tree and beautiful Frau on summit of Arbel

It rained all day, leaving a very wet John

Drei Engeln am Jordan Ufer

Schöne Frau am Jordan Ufer

On the Sea of Galilee looking back at Capernaum and Arbel

Slope where Jesus probably taught the sermon on the Mount

Unmasked caped crusaders at the Beatitudes mount church

Day 9—    And yet another very busy day. I hope I can remember everywhere we went! We started by heading north of Tiberias into the Hula valley. On the right, you could see the hills of Naphthali, which border Lebanon. We visited the archaeological dig at Dan, seeing mostly Old Testament history, notably the high place that Jeroboam created. From there, we headed up into the Golan Heights, stopping at Castle Nimrod, a Crusader era Castle built by the Muslims, and fortress on the Damascus Road. We skirted the side of Mt. Hermon, stopping at a Nature Preserve of one of the three sources of the Jordan River. We drove up to the top of Mt. Bental,  where we were able to look onto Syria. There had been some Syrian fire toward Israel yesterday, and as we left the mountain, we saw two attack helicopters flying over us, only to learn later that there was more fire toward Israel, and that Israel launched a retaliatory return fire. We visited a partially restored Talmudic house from the time of Christ, and then an olive oil factory. Lastly, we stopped by the ruins of Bethsaida, home of Philip and Andrew, and probably where Jesus performed the miracle of the feeding of the 5000.

In the area of Dan, at one of the three sources for the Jordan River

The high place at Dan, built by Jeroboam. The metal frame attempts a reconstruction of the possible form of the high place.

The entrance of the ancient Canaanite city of Dan. Abraham probably walked through this portal.

Schlomo on Mount Bental overlooking Syria

Day 10—  It was sad leaving the peaceful serenity of the Sea of Galilee. We drove through the town of Cana, which is now a fairly large town, and skirted Nazareth, an even larger town. We did not go into Nazareth itself, since nothing there resembled what might have been found in Jesus time. Instead, we went to the precipice outside of town, a very steep cliff that drops off into the Jezreel valley. It gave a great view of Mt. Tabor, Mt. Gilboa, and the whole Jezreel plain. You could also see where the town tried to through Jesus off the cliff. We ventured from there to the Archaeological digs at Mediggo, having both Canaanite as well as Solomonic and post-Solomonic findings. The next stop was the top of Mt. Carmel, where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal. Traveling down the coast in the plain of Sharon, we arrived in Caesarea, a town with harbor. Built by Herod, and visited often by Paul, but also where Peter met Cornelius.  We arrived by nightfall in Jerusalem, where we took a walk that evening into the old city, and  visited the wailing wall. We wailed.

 

Mount Tabor and the Jezreel Valley from the precipice

Jezreel valley looking back to Nazareth from Mt. Carmel

Remains of seaport at Caesarea

Mediterranean Sea from Caesarea

Aqueduct which brought water to the city of Caesarea

Continued in Part 3…

 

Jordan-Israel Adventure-Part 3

November 26th, 2012

Day 11— yet another hectic day. We started in the old city of Jerusalem, first visiting the pools of Bethesda, and then wandering through the via dolorosa, visiting the stations of the cross. Unfortunately, much of what we saw were just churches built over sites, or small patches of the real thing underground, and thus not realistic. After lunch, we proceeded first to the Herodian, a massive fortress like the Masada, built by Herod as an escape, and probably in view of Mary and Joseph from Bethlehem. We went to the shepherd’s fields, and then into Bethlehem itself. This was a massive zoo. We skipped the alleged manger site, and visited right next door the church holding the study room and grave of St. Jerome. I have a deep admiration for Jerome. We came home tired but with a rewarding day.

Garden of Gethsemane – old olive tree

Bethlehem from the Herodian

John in the Shepard’s cave – where the angels announced the birth of Christ

Tomb of Jerome

Day 12—More Jerusalem today. We started with the western wall, then took a walk underground where the western wall was being excavated.  We then went to a museum that had a large mock-up of the second temple. In that museum were pieces of the Dead Sea scrolls on display as well as the Aleppo book. The next stop was a holocaust museum, very moving but very Jewish in its sentimentality. The last stop was very notable in that our tour guide, Schlomo, took us to his brother-in-law, who is an orthodox Rabbi and scribe, who demonstrated how he would hand produce the Torah on parchment, which would take him over a year to accomplish. Everything had to be kosher, including the paper, the ink, the writing utensils,  no letter could touch another, and no letter could be either too tall or too short. We arrived back at the hotel happy from a full day.

 

Wailing

More wailing

And more wailing

Tree at Holocaust museum dedicated to Corrie Ten Boom and family

The Scribe

The scribe scribing

Day 13— Our day started with a scheduled tour of the temple mount, only to discover that it was an unexpected Muslim holiday, and thus it was not open. We retreated, toured the old city of David, and watched a 3D movie which made it super-clear where David’s city sat. Over the years and many changes to the city walls, the terrain has become somewhat unrecognizable, and the old Canaanite city of David actually no longer sits in the city. We got to walk through hezekiah’s tunnel, and saw William’s shaft, which it perhaps how Joab’s army got into the city. Our focus then turned to the sewage system of the Tyropean Valley, over which Robinson’s arch stood and where merchants lined the paths. We looked at the southern walls, the stairs leading up to the entrance of the temple in Jesus’ time, and was how Jesus typically entered the temple. We made a mad dash to Gordon’s Golgotha, a convincing site, through Christ was probably crucified below the cliff, and not on the hill. The garden tomb also seemed convincing contrary to the official catholic site. The best archeological evidence still favors the Catholic site, according to Dr. John. We took it easy in the evening, preparing for one last day.

Descent into Hezekiah’s tunnel

Walking Hezekiah’s tunnel

The steps to the pool of Siloam

Bar Mitzvah family at Wailing Wall

The stairs to the southern Gate, where Christ probably entered the temple

A strange couple lurking in the Old City of Jerusalem

Day 14- This was a free day, and we spent our time wandering through the old city. We tried to walk the walls of Jerusalem, but it was off limits since it was Friday. We went up to the top of the Lutheran church (Kirche unser Erlöser) for a great view of the city. The remainder of the time was spent relaxing. That evening, I took a taxi with John and several other people up to the top of the Mount of Olives, and then we walked down, walking past the Eastern Wall and back to the hotel.

Tomb of Jehosaphat and Absalom

The Golden Gate, sealed by the Muslims to prevent the Messiah from entering

The Golden Walls of Jerusalem

Israeli police guarding the temple site from loonies

 

 

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I would have gathered your children together…and you were not willing. See, your house is left desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”.

Day 15- It was a long flight home. Our plane out of Tel Aviv was a bit hurried when they learned that there was rockets coming in from Gaza. Since we were gaining 10 hours from the flight, it seemed to take forever to get back home. But, all went well and we were grateful to be back in our own comfortable surrounding.

Thoughts on the trip…

The trip was a perfect overview of the Holy Land. John was a super leader, and I would heartily recommend him to anybody considering a trip to Israel, Jordan, or elsewhere in the mideast.

Things that we would have liked on the trip include…

1. A little less busy pace. Some excursions could have been edited out. We barely had time to enjoy the situation. We usually arrived at the hotel after sundown, making enjoyable visits to the Dead Sea and other spots an impossibility. Also, I was interested in just seeing the lay of the land from the bus, but often the travel ended up at the end of the day in darkness, making it impossible to fully appreciate the land.

2. The Israel part of the trip was a little too heavy with the orientation around modern Jewish affairs. Some sites were nice, but there was perhaps too much, with visits to David Ben-Gurion’s grave, Rachel’s grave, the Holocaust museum, etc. Instead, many biblical sites were completely ommitted, including Beer-Sheva and Hebron, the Sheffela, Bethany, the Jericho Road, Shechem and Mt Gerizim/Ebal, etc. It was supposed to be a Bible lands tour, not a modern Israel tour.

3. Egypt. We initially signed up because the trip included Egypt. Then, the Muslim Brotherhood went on the rampage. Oh well. Maybe someday.

What we liked about the tour far exceeded any criticisms. These included…

1. John was very knowledgeable about the land, the archaeology, and the scriptural correlates to what we were seeing. He was a superb teacher. He watched his orientation so as to remain doctrinally neutral on some touchy subjects like eschatology.

2. The hotels and facilities, the bus, the meals, the guides were all first class. It could not have been better planned.

3. John was adept at bringing in biblical lessons to the places we visited. He had a heart for worship while on tour, being able to bring glory to God by pointing to us scriptural correlates in what we saw.

This trip gave me new insights in several ways…

1. It made historical reading of the narratives involving the land of Israel more clear. I could understand the idea of Jesus being led out of Nazareth to be thrown off a cliff. I could understand the sermon on the mount context, the sea of Galilee experiences, the wanderings of David while watching sheep in Bethlehem, the difficulty of Abraham chasing the four Mesopotamian kings from Beer-Sheva to Dan and beyond.

2. I used to read the Bible through every year, but haven’t for several years. This generated interest in again committing the Scriptures to a cover-to-cover read. Historical sections make more sense.

3. Learned more about the Arab-Israel conflict, much from an Israeli viewpoint. I’ll speak more about Jews vs. Arabs in another blog.

4. Insights into the spiritual condition of Israel.

a) Arabs – hard to judge. They have prayer towers virtually everywhere, including throughout the Jewish and Christian quarters of the old city of Jerusalem. You can’t go anywhere in Israel without seeing prayer towers. Having religious control of the temple mount (the Israelis have military control) leaves Arabs in control of the ultimate religious say in the country.

b) Jews – they continue in the sins of the time of Jesus. The reason they remain in their current state reflects their inability to acknowledge their Messiah. Perhaps their religious orientation is even more intense for ritual than ever. Their worship of the old temple wall is disgusting. They remain lost.

c) Christians, including all sects of Christians, pose a new form of idolatry, the idolatry of place. Is there not perhaps a reason why God allowed the sites in Israel where history occurred to be lost? Whether it’s identifying the cave of Machpelah to the site of the crucifiction, we really don’t know. Yet, so many sites are worshipped and venerated, like the “site” of the nativity, the “site” of the burial of Jesus, the “site” of the sermon on the mount, to name just a few. Protestants have the same failing, feeling that a baptism in the Jordan River confers something special. In the end, they make a mockery of the significance of baptism. So one “walked today where Jesus walked”, talked where Jesus talked,  fished today where Jesus fished, or ate today where Jesus ate. The importance is on the person and not the place.

5. Desire to pray for peace in Israel. Every solution proposed fails. Fund Israel more. Quit funding Israel. Exterminate the Palestinians (that’s right, I heard this solution offered by a member of our group). Send the Jews to Antartica. Get both sides talking. Be nice. Etc. Etc. Etc. Virtually every solution is a fantasy land of wishfulness, that everybody would just love each other. Make love, not war. It won’t happen until the prince of Peace returns in the clouds, where every eye will behold him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so, AMEN! (Rev 1:7) For now, we pray for peace in Jerusalem, and that the tribes of Israel will acknowledge their Messiah, the Messiah of Jews, Muslims, Arabs, and even Germans.

A black day for cycling

October 22nd, 2012

Sir Lance-a-Lot Lost was stripped today of his seven Tour de France titles. Such is a black day for a great sport. Thankfully, the European Cycling Commission (UCI) decided against awarding anybody the title for those seven years, since most of the riders in second place had also been accused or highly suspected of doping. Sir LanceLot is not the first knight fallen from the Round Table, and probably is not the last. The black day is not for Lance, though I’m sure he will experience massive depression over this news. It is for a sport that has placed inhuman demands on people, not only in the Tour, but so many other bicycle races that have been contrived, including the RAAM (ride across America). Riders will continue to devise techniques of enhancing their performance in an artificial fashion. Cheating will then rise to new levels.

The evidence against Armstrong is overwhelming. I won’t belabor recalling the evidence since the USADA has done that quite well, well enough to convince the UCI that he was worthy of being stripped of his titles. There are good arguments against taking away the titles. After all, Lance was a formidible athlete. One can detail the brilliant strategies that Lance often used to win those titles. Yet, to not act decisively will forever color the sport as doping-permissive, and where it is so pervasive, such radical actions are necessary and should be lauded.

Lance appears to the public as their type of hero, winning in the face of the worst adversity (cancer), pushing on through honest determination to succeed and conquer. His friends feel otherwise, that is, what few friends he still has. When one looks at the entire life of Lance, there never was a time when Lance and his public persona were even close to matching. Lance was always a “win at all cost” person, somebody who would run over his own mother to win a race. His arrogance and ruthless striving had no morals and no bounds. Is this what we want to see in an American bicycle hero? I don’t think so. It is unfortunate that most of life in American culture is now with the Armstrong persona. There is no aspect of life that is not affected by the American-Armstrongian win-all mentality.

As far as we can tell, Einstein did not dope. Nor did he win the Tour-de-France. Such were the better years of cycling, when the sport could be enjoyed, and when exercise and entertainment could be mixed together into one grand activity. The bicycle is one of the more fascinating intentions of the 19th century, and it is not surprising that the airplane was invented in a bicycle shop. There is no other device that better promotes fitness, efficiently harnesses energy for movement, is mechanically simple and inexpensive, doesn’t pollute, is orthopedically gentle on the body, can be ridden at all ages, and has a plethora of uses outside of exercise and leisure activities. Like all good things, they can also be abused and used for evil intentions. That is the curse we live under, that we cannot be happy with the goodness of life, but must always pervert it or destroy its good intentions. There is one race worth running, and is spoken of by an anonymous preacher man, saying “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2. Drugs and performance enhancement medications are unnecessary in the race that we confront, and the prize far greater than a silly little Tour-de-France title.

 

Laverne Swanson Rayburn, R.I.P.

October 14th, 2012

Betsy and I have just returned from the funeral for a most remarkable person, the mother of our pastor. I wondered who would be officiating the funeral, since I never thought that a pastor would perform the funeral service for their own mother. Yet, Dr. Rayburn noted that he also did the funeral for his father as well as his oldest sister. The sermon was remarkable in that it not only honored mom, but reminded all of us how we are all new creations in Christ with personal exhortations.

Laverne was a special person in our life. We met her when she moved to Tacoma from St. Louis, Missouri. Her husband was the founding president of Covenant Theological Seminary, but died in 1989, leaving her a widow for 23 years. She moved to Tacoma in 1999. She would hold coffee clatches for women, of which Betsy often went. She was always at church, sweet and friendly, but motherly in her firmness to what was right.

Laverne had a life that was mostly quiet and behind the scenes. Yet, the number of people that she influenced in her life is difficult to count. I think of the great influence that her husband had on the world, in establishing Covenant College and Covenant Seminary, in forming the PCA denomination, in commissioning and sending Francis Schaeffer to Europe, in influencing countless students that attended Covenant Seminary and are now pastors or leaders in church and society. Little of that influence would have happened if it wasn’t for Laverne being there.

To the family, including the children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of Laverne, Betsy and I offer our deepest sympathies. The loss is only assuaged by knowing that she is with the Lord and we will all too soon be with her also. To Laverne I offer a song often sung at German funerals, and a favorite of mine…

1. Wo findet die Seele die Heimat, der Ruh?
Wer deckt sie mit schützenden Fittichen zu?
Ach, bietet die Welt keine Freistatt mir an,
Wo Sünde nicht kommen, nicht anfechten kann?
Nein, nein, nein, nein, hier ist sie nicht,
die Heimat der Seelen ist droben im Licht!

2. Verlasse die Erde, die Heimath zu sehn,
Die Heimat der Seele, so herrlich, so schön,
Jerusalem droben, von Golde gebaut,
Ist dieses die Heimath der Seele, der Braut?
Ja, ja, ja, ja, dieses allein
Kann Ruhplatz und Heimat der Seele nur sein.

3. Wie selig die Ruhe bei Jesu im Licht!
Tod, Sünde und Schmerzen, die kennt man dort nicht.
Das Rauschen der Harfen, der liebliche Klang
Empfängt die Erlösten mit süßem Gesang.
Ruh’, Ruh’, Ruh’, Ruh’, himmlische Ruh’,
Im Schoße des Mittlers, ich eile dir zu!

4. Bei aller Verwirrung und Klage allhier,
Ist mir, o mein Heiland, so wohl stehts bei dir!
Im Kreise der Deinen sprichst „Friede!“ du aus,
Da bin ich mit deiner Gemeinschaft zu Haus!
Heim, heim, heim, heim, ach ja nur heim!
O komme, mein Heiland, und hole mich heim!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCi37wnGkEs

Deutschland 2012

June 17th, 2012

Deutschland JUN01 – JUN15, 2012

The above scene is a panorama shot of the old town of Passau. You see the Donau (Danube) River below and the Inns above, running together. There is a third river, not seen also running into the Donau, the Ilz, and so Passau is often called the Dreiflüssenstadt, or City of Three Rivers. Such a photo represents the overwhelming impressions one gets while visiting Deutschland, and of the nearly 400 photos that I took, I could only show a small fraction of them. Pity.

Our trip started by arrival to Düsseldorf. We were just given notice from Herbert that his plumbing gave out, and so there was no running water in the house. Thus, we stayed in a hotel in Düsseldorf, and dropped in twice to Herbert’s Haus to pick up the bicycle and visit a dear friend. We also must bring Herbert his annual load of Jamaican Jerk sauce.

Herbert’s Haus

Betsy and I then went to München, and met Peter Tate there. The time was spent riding our bicycles, and seeing the city. On our last night, we were able to meet with old friends, Robbie and Jordan Rayburn.

Peter in Marienplatz

05OCT. First bicycle day ride 3:27 riding time.  50 km total riding, ascent 105 meters, 2416 cal, ride around München, Nymphenburg, Olympia stadium, Enflischer Garten,, then SW of city.

Peter in front of Nymphenburg Palace
Olympic Stadium area
Peter pumping up the Olympic Mountain
Overview of the Olympic Park from the top of Olympic Mountain
Bavaria, in the Theresian Weise
06OCT., second riding day in the München area, 4:41 riding time,  74.65 km, 3315 cal, 283 m climb , trip from München to Wolfratshausen and back, mostly on variants of the Isar Radweg.
Quaint house on the Isar
Woods along the Isar
Somehow, we lost our way on return from Wolfratshausen, and ended up on a very muddy mountain bike alternate of the Isar Radweg. Not good.
We then took the train to Würzburg, where we dropped Betsy off with the Wagners, and went on to begin the Main Radweg from Würzburg to Frankfurt.
07 OCT,  first day on the Main Radweg, starting at 12:30, for a total of 3:54 riding time, 77.19 km, 108 m total ascent, 2847 cal burned,  trip from Würzburg to Markt Heidenfeld. TOTAL RAD!
Castle in the Lohr area, close to the REAL sleeping beauty castle
Hotel in Markt Heidenfeld
08OCT 5:48 riding time, 102 6 km, 3425 cal, 181 m ascent.  Trip from Markt Heidenfeld to Aschaffenburg.  Miltenberg was awesome!
Poppies on the way
Numerous castles were seen along the way
Me in Miltenberg
in Miltenberg
Aschaffenburg Castle
09OCT 4:10 riding time, 67.43 km, 2453 cal, 137 m Aschaffenburg to Frankfurt, and then Zellingen to Leinach. We took the train back from Frankfurt to Zellingen, and then rode our bikes up to the Wagners in Leinach. Peter left to Munich the next morning. I went for a walk with Hans-Jurgen and Gustav.
Frankfurt on the horizon
Flowers were everywhere
Der Hund und der Meister
Dorf Leinach ohne Nebel
Back in Leinach, we went for one day to the Fränkisches Freilandmuseum in Bad Windsheim, where many of the old Fachwerk houses were reconstructed into a museum setting.
Nicht die Meisterin mit Gustav
Sheep dog in museum herding sheep the old way
One of the many Fachwerk Houses in the museum
Hannes and Katja and Gustav

Betsy and I then hopped on the train to Passau, and was met by Herbert’s sister Hille. She showed us around Passau, and then let us stay overnight at her place in Rotthalmuster. We got to walk the town the next morning.

Kloster across the Inn River in Passau 

Largest pipe organ (in the world?)
Inn River flowing into the Donau
Downtown Rotthalmünster 

Betsy and Hille
Betsy and Hille
Donald Duck

We then took the train back to Würzburg, and then the next morning to Benningen. There we met some dear old friends from the past, Heinz and Debbie Fuchs. That evening, we got to watch the Europa Meisterschaft, with Deutschland playing Niederland. Deutschland won, of course. The next day, it was off to the Castle in Ludwigsburg.

Betsy at Ludwigsburger Schloss
Flowers at the Schloss
Debbie and Betsy

The castle had a Märchen (Fairy Tale) Garden, where many of the Grimms tales and Max and Moritz were displayed in anamatronics type format.

The big bad wolf from Little Red Riding Hood
Lehrer Lampel from Max and Moritz
Onkel Fritz from Max und Moritz

 

Inner court of Ludwigsburg Palace
Stairwell of Ludwigsburg Palace

Unfortunately, they would not let me take photos on the tour of the Palace. It was stupendous. That evening, we bid Debbie goodbye, and took the train up to Frankfurt, flying back home the next morning.

This trip was fun, rewarding, and inspiring for returning as soon as possible to do Germany again. This time, I’d like to predominate the bicycle travel, thinking about either some portion of the Donau Radweg, or perhaps the Romantische Straße, which runs through western Bayern.
Betsy and I need to thank everybody who made this trip a pleasure, Sarah at home who got the mail and watched the house, Herbert for advice and inspiration, and attempts to accommodate us, Katja and Hannes for their incredible hospitality, Hille for putting up with us on the fly, Heinz, Debbie and family for their accommodations and willingness to watch my bicycle and use it once in a while, Robbie and Jordan for touching base with us, and helping Peter care for the rental bike, and for Peter for making an awesome cycle partner. 

Quotations from Machiavelli

June 17th, 2012

 

“To begin with, there has never been a case of a new prince disarming his subjects. Indeed, whenever he found them disarmed, he proceeded to arm them. For by arming your subjects, you make their arms your own. Those among them who are suspicious become loyal, while those who are already loyal remain so, and from subjects they are transformed into partisans. Though you cannot arm them all, nonetheless you increase your safety among those you leave unarmed by extending privileges to those whom you arm…

When you disarm your subjects, however, you offend them by showing that, either from cowardliness or from lack of faith, you distrust them; and either conclusion will induce them to hate you. Moreover, since it is impossible for you to remain unarmed, you would have to resort to mercenaries, whose limitations have already been discussed. Even if such troops were good, however, they could never be good enough to defend you from powerful enemies and doubtful subjects. Therefore, as I have said, a new prince in a newly acquired state has always taken measures to arm his subjects, and history is full of examples proving that this is so.”

From chapter 20 of The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. “Machiavellian” is a word that means cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous in politics and in life. If you read The Prince, you will realize that Machiavelli simply describes the behavior and nature of current politics, both in the rule of the state and in the rule of the church. The observation he made regarding disarming and arming subjects could not be more true. When president Obama has to have his soldiers in Afghanistan disarmed in order to come into his presence, as happened recently, it is a sign of absolute distrust and disrespect. Removing arms from loyal citizens is offensive and eventually destructive of the strength of the strength, since the military of itself is never sufficiently adequate to defend a state.

 

RAMRTD 2012

May 27th, 2012

RAMRTD 2012

The RAMROD is a well-known ride held every year in the state of Washington, known as the Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day. Well, we did it in two days, thus RAMRTD. Ramrod riders will use the sleekest and lightest bicycles, light clothing, and utilize supply stations. We utilized larger, heavier touring bicycles, and carried all of our necessities plus with us.

We headed out from our house at 8:30 on Friday morning. Russ was the main pacesetter, with me tagging behind at my own pace. We headed down to the Orting Valley, and then out to Kapowsin and Eatonville. Taking the Eatonville Cutoff Road, we stopped by good friends of mine, B & N Lindsey, who live on the highway going up to Mt. Rainier. They took some photos of us, which they e-mailed to me. Here is the Russ & Ken show!

We then rode through Elbe, stopping at Scale Burgers for the best burgers in the state of Washington, and run by an old patient of mine, whom I always need to say hello to. When in Elbe, there is only one place to eat, and say “hi” to Cora. From there, we rode up to Ashford, got on the Skate Creek Road and dropped down in Packwood. While in Ashford, we visited the Visitor’s Center, and was informed that there was a MAJOR swap meet occurring in Packwood, and that it was unlikely that we would ever find a hotel. The nice lady at the visitor’s center was able to call and find us one last room. The scenery on the way to Packwood was incredible, and one stand of trees really caught my attention.

Here is Russ coming up on me on the summit of the Skate Creek Road…

We made it to a very packed city of Packwood. It was interesting to see how everybody had tattoos, and ate the worst greasy food imaginable. Definitely not our crowd. I was unable to make a connection with AT&T on my iPhone in Packwood, and the hotel had Wi-Fi, but it didn’t work. So, we remained out of communication in Packwood. Packwood was an interesting phenomenon. According to my bicycle computer, we rode 75 miles, burned up 5545 calories, and climbed 2600 feet. We went to sleep early.

The next day, we headed north, aiming for Mt. Rainier Park, and Cayuse pass. It was a lengthy climb. The summit had up to 10-12 feet or more of snow in spots, though the road was clear. From the photo, we don’t look tired, but we were faking it.

The descent was fast, and freezing cold, but fun. We had to stop and get photos at the park entrance.

The remainder of the ride was mostly downhill to the Orting Valley through familiar territory. I had Betsy pick me up at VanLierops not wishing one last awful grunt up to the top of South Hill. Russ did it (to his regret) without his panniers. Saturday was 82 miles, 5800 feet elevation gain, and 6800 calories burned. Was it worth it? Absolutely… I’m ready to do it again. We just need a little more care at limiting the extent of riding when we are mostly climbing, like of Saturday. On multi-day rides, it is perhaps not wise to push yourself too hard on your first few days of riding. We knew that we’d have rest on Sunday and Monday (Memorial Day), so, it didn’t matter.

Bicycling has got to be the best geriatric sport that there is. Jogging beats up the bones. Backpacking is hard on the back. Swimming is flopping around in somebody else’s pee. Cycle touring is adventure, meeting people, seeing the world, and going places you’d otherwise never go at a leisurely pace, slow enough to really see where you are, and feel the environment around you. It’s great exercise, and a nice way to spend time with a friend.

On Writing

April 25th, 2012

Writing tends to be my weakness. I’ve never felt comfortable composing a sentence, let alone a paragraph, chapter or book. Those that read what I have posted will quickly identify grammatical errors, spelling errors, and nonsensical sentences. When pointed out to me, I can immediately identify what I did wrong, though I rarely see these mistakes during the composition of the writing. Perhaps this was the fault of the public school system and me not getting Mr. Boniwell for senior high school English class. College English classes were a total joke, and didn’t require one to be able to write or even to spell. Much of the writing done in college is in a technical style, which has some rigid forms and much easier to master than writing on things philosophical or as commentary. Regardless, one will note that I have written a modest amount (see the Veroffentlichungen section of this webpage). I also am chiefly responsible for Occasional Specimens, a newsletter that our practice sends out every 3-4 months. Unlike my Reading List which is quite lengthy, I have no aspirations to write anything major at this time except for short blurbs on this blogsite. I will die without a magnum opus, unless you call my Ph.D. thesis a magnum opus—it is more like an opus dei.

My fascination with writing is provoked by seeing others writing and getting published. Particularly, I noted that brother Dennis used to have an ACC Journal, edited by him and Jim Fodor, and eventually Joe Haring. These journals came out during the years 1983-1987 at a time when I was living in Chicago and enduring residency and doing my Ph.D. work. Dennis had attempted to reform the AC Church to thinking more about their doctrine and belief systems. These Journals have been recently scanned and posted on the internet, with only 1 issue missing. In the long run, I’m not sure if the publication did any good, but I’d have to allow the editors to speak for that. Dennis no longer belongs to the ACC and lives out of country. Joe Haring is dead, and Jim Fodor now teaches at a Papist college, with a belief system that I’d identify as theologically liberal (i.e., non-Christian). Many of the other authors no longer belong to the ACC, or have moved on in life. Maybe they were writing to themselves?

Which leads to the question as to why we write? Perhaps most writing is writing to the self. Perhaps it is a clarification of the mind, an organization of thoughts, a systemization of concepts, a way to pass time. I wonder of all that is written, how much is actually read. Anything longer than what I have written up to this point tends to be passed over, as the contemporary mind cannot tolerate an attention span greater than about 30 seconds. because it is easier for anybody to write and publish to the world, we are barraged with massive volumes of “important” script that we could not possibly have the time to read, even should we be able to read for 24 hours/day and live as long as Methuselah. This constrains me to write less, write pithy, write summaries of thought rather than volumes of detail. Anything more than what can be read in several minutes will be a matter of writing to the self.

So, I will read much, and write little.

 

Hospital Ramblings

April 17th, 2012

Several days ago, I was asked to attend a meeting put on by the hospital in conjunction with outside consultants, seeking ways to improve the working environment in the hospital. The focus seemed to be directed at the operating rooms and surgeons. The consultants were ex-Air Force fighter pilots who now work in the private airline industry flying jets and running this consulting firm. The theme of the discussion was that by utilizing various organizational and procedural methods, the airline industry has been able to significantly cut back its accident rate, implying that the same methods can be brought into the health care industry to reduce the amount of mistakes.

The discussion immediately began to focus on critical aspects of relations between physicians and nurses and techs at GSH. There was a prevailing notion that the old behaviors and attitudes of surgeons would no longer be tolerated, as it was destroying the ability of nurses and techs to work constructively and contribute to the well-being of patients. Surgeons, so it is said, do not listen, and operate under behavior patterns that assure that mistakes will happen. Procedural techniques to fix this problem include creating pauses before cases, and having debriefings after cases. During regular operations, hostile relations will be sought to be removed in order to allow the free interchange of information among all parties involved in patient care.

There is much good to this model. It realizes that the surgeon is not God and cannot have command of all aspects of things in the operating room or on the patient floors. It appreciated that various other disciplines such as nursing, dietary, physical therapy and others have contributions that should be considered in the physician decision making process. This model realizes that when there is a breakdown in comfort among various groups interacting in a hospital, mistakes are going to be made that were otherwise preventable. I raise absolutely no objection to these ideals, and feel that GSH needs to recruit assistance from outside themselves to correct these relational issues. Yet, there is something missing from the discussion noted by the surgeons but nobody else. To that I will address.

The grass was never greener in the past. Yet, it seems like the hospital is now trying to fix something that they spent the last twenty years destroying. I am not sure that the airline industry and the plethora of consultants have a grasp as to what is really broken. I recall the years when I would make rounds twice a day. During these rounds, I was usually accompanied by either the patient’s nurse or the charge nurse. Ideas were exchanged, thoughts on patient care discussed, and then some social exchange occurred. I knew the name of all the nurses on the surgical floor, as well as their hobbies, family situation, and length of time that the nurse had been at GSH. None of this occurs anymore. It’s not just the nurses’ fault. With declining reimbursement, I had to be busier to maintain a solvent practice, meaning that more surgical cases had to be performed, leaving me less time for other things. Tension between family, hobbies and work usually meant that compromises had to occur at work. About ten years ago, I stopped doing evening rounds. About that time, nurses also stopped rounding with the doctors. Because the hospital had to cut back on employee costs, nursing aides were the first to go. This meant that nurses had no time to round. Then, electronic medical records came into being, which meant that nurses had not only less time with the physician, but also less time with the patient.

Meanwhile, inappropriate behaviors by physicians had become of increasing importance to hospitals. All it takes is one mean-spirited, demanding physician in a bad mood, or, perhaps a kind but incompetent physician in any mood, to make life miserable for everybody in the operating room and on the ward. Oddly, throughout the 20 years of my time at GSH, there has ALWAYS been one or two physicians under extreme fire from administration. Somehow, when one naughty physician is appropriately silenced or removed from staff, another physician rose to take their place. Often, this was a physician who may have had just slightly inappropriate behavior in the past, but then received the spotlight, which assured that the intensity of maladaptive behaviors would increase. The physician might have been sent to anger management training (no comment on that, watch the movie Anger Management!), or worse yet, sent to Seattle for psychological investigation and therapy. Should a hospital need to appropriately remove a physician from staff, lawsuits could be expected, unless the hospital had adequate documentation to support their claims of persistent and enduring physician misbehavior. Thus, the evolution of incident reports. Incident reports are written now for every possible behavior that might be interpreted as maladaptive, including walking onto the wards with crossed eyes. Any joke, any statement, any reference that might be overheard and misinterpreted by the hearer would lead to an incident report. When a real incident occurs, then the hospital will enquire of all employees as to comments or statements that might have been uttered by the doctor producing the incident. These are all kept in files outside of the purview of the physician. Oddly, the only person in this grand production that was not writing incident reports was the physician, regardless of the misbehavior of the employee toward that physician.

Not surprisingly, the ultimate result of this has been a widening rift between physicians and the hospital. Those physicians who are most dependent on the hospital, the surgical specialties and OB/Gyn, have had the hardest time adapting. Surgeons have complained bitterly in the past about the widening rift between the surgeon and the hospital employees, but this has fallen on deaf ears. Thus, when the hospital shows an interest in correcting the alienation of surgeons with the rest of the hospital community, it represents a favorable move that hopefully is not too late in coming.

I had mentioned that surgeons and surgical subspecialties have been defined as having the greatest behavior problems at the hospital. What is it that is different about surgeons that makes them bad boys? Is it that it takes a certain greater amount of ego and ambition to be a surgeon than other specialties of medicine? Only a select few wanted to go into surgery in the past, since the training was extreme, and the risks that the surgeon would take were extreme. I saw many bright young doctor drop out of surgical residency in order to go into a specialty that possessed a tincture of sanity. The few that survived residency often went into fellowships, which were even more demanding on the person. After about 5-9 years of abuse in the training program, the young surgeon would be spit out onto the community in order to practice their trade. Their ability to do brutal things to a patient and yet have them survive could for the most part be attributed to ingrained habits, routines, and developed skills that occur automatically. Success in the operating room is possible when the techs and nurses mesh with the particular style of the surgeon. Of course, this is far more critical for large, complex cases than for small routine procedures. The stakes on complex surgeries tend to be huge, and the ultimate responsibility rests upon the surgeon to get the patient through. It is known that post-operative care is just as critical as the intra-operative care, and so similar demands are placed on the nurses and ancillary personnel on the floor to perform commensurate with the expectations of the surgeon.

What happens when the system breaks down? Complications occur, patients die, and fingers get pointed in all directions as to responsibility. Physicians become angry, nurses and techs become frightened or despondent, and further disruption of the system into a fatal spiral occurs. The hospital responds with checklists and policies. Niceness is enforced. Feel-good sessions are enacted. The root problem is ignored.

The surgeon used to be considered as captain of the ship. The airline pilots who were consulting for GSH acknowledged the importance of having a captain on an airplane. The pilot of the airplane has sole responsibility, and is allowed the final decision for matters of concern that occur on an airplane in flight. Because of the breakdown in relations between surgeons and nurses/techs, there is no captain of the ship in a hospital. Decisions are made my meetings and multiple consults. Everybody deserves an equal say in the decisions. If a nurse or other employee feels the physician to be in error, they have the hospital support to correct that decision and change the physician’s order or not fill the doctor’s order. This has happened to me many times, and has happened many times to other physicians that I know of. To respond in an emotional manner would generate an anger management recommendation to the doctor.

The airline equivalent is appropriate here. In order to keep things totally safe, we should spend the rest of our life taxiing our airplanes around on the tarmac. The stewardess (now called flight attendant) would have a chance to drive the plane on the tarmac once in a while. Everybody will feel warm and fuzzy.

It is hard to compare the world of the airline pilot and that of the surgeon. The example of following protocols is often given of Captain Scully landing the AirWest plane in the Hudson. It was a tremendous decision. Oddly, he didn’t call a case management conference. He didn’t hold a discussion of options. He didn’t worry about offending the co-pilot, who happening to be flying the plane at the time. He immediately took total control of the plane. He would have not tolerated a stewardess protesting his decision, and might have even acted in anger if the stewardess had the audacity to do such a thing. Surgery is always operating under an adverse event. Things are never normal, which is the reason for surgery. Much is not predictable. The human body is not a finely tuned aircraft whose every part and function is known. If we really had to compare the airline and health care industry, then we should force the Airline industry to operate mainly in inclement weather, with a 30% unreliability placed into all the instruments. The pilot could never totally trust his instruments. I really don’t think we’d see the same industry-wide track record for the airline industry. We might see more pilots forced into anger management classes for failing to respond  properly to extreme stress.

Physicians used to be the orienting factor for quality health care. Many of the great clinics, such as the Mayo Clinic, Oschner Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Virginia Mason Clinic, and others were created around a single surgeon who attracted patients. These physicians set the tone of excellence for the entire clinic. Today, hospital advertising tends to promote first class facilities, and techniques such as laser surgery or robotic surgery. Doctor names are rarely ever mentioned. When doctors are illustrated, it is typically a room with either a team of physicians and nurses and ancillary people, or a group of physicians together. In a sense, this is understandable. But, it is like advertising an orchestra while focusing on the second violins and never mentioning the conductor. The second violins are vital, but nobody really cares who is playing second violin if the conductor is von Karajan.

The old paradigm of private practice medicine tended to keep the physician stable in the community. Now, physicians tend to be employed by hospitals or large physician groups, and their life situation tend to be far more mobile. As an example, hospitalists have been at GSH for at least 7-10 years, with 10-15 physicians in the group, yet only three of the hospitalists now at GSH have been at GSH for over 2 years. It becomes hard to build functional teams when most of the physicians and employees on the team are transient. Worse, without the stable physician base, it can be challenging for hospitals to promote physicians on their team. Thus, the public focus is on things that do not promote quality, such as new hospital buildings, new computer informatics systems, and new gizmos in the operating room.

My solution to this whole problem was somewhat novel, and required a Sabbatical to realize. After returning from Sabbatical in 2009, I decided that the safest solution was to never, ever do a complex case again. My patient outcomes at GSH historically have been superlative for thoracic cases, hepato-biliary and pancreatic surgery, gastric and esophageal surgery, and complex oncologic cases. Regardless, with a system that I viewed as broken, I was uncomfortable having my patient risk the hospital experience under my responsibility. I do not feel that the hospital has yet allowed surgeons to be the lead driving force for quality improvement. Therefore, I have advised complex surgical cases go to the university for their surgical treatment.

The system is broken between physicians and the hospital and its employees, and I’m delighted to see the hospital taking a preliminary move toward identifying the problem and trying to fix it. I do NOT want to be misinterpreted as implying that this is a problem limited to my hospital. It is a problem that exists in most hospitals in the US, and represents the changing culture of health care. For my hospital, it is most vital that they respond quickly to an ever deteriorating condition of dysfunctional relationships. Thus, my strong support for bringing in an outside agency to help restore a workable dynamic in the hospital.

 

Odds and Ends 10MAR2012

March 10th, 2012

Odds and Ends (February to March 2012) Mostly trip reports…

The year actually started out with a bicycle ride with me and Patrick. Look at the kid. He’s awesome!

Betsy and I celebrated her birthday in early February with a trip to the Oregon Coast. We dropped by Portland on the way, and when visiting brother Gaylon, noted some highly suspicious activity around Gaylon’s pad. We suspect that they were looking for space aliens. Oder? The photo is above.

We then headed to the coast. Betsy got a surprise in the hotel room, where she had balloons, cake and champagne waiting…

The coast photography didn’t turn out the best, but I’ve included a few shots…

Sea Lion caves

Tillamook Cheese Factory

 

Making and Packaging the Cheese

Getting photographs

Gosh!!!!

Last Thursday (08MAR2012) I finally decided to do an outside ride since the weather was fantastic. I rode from home up to the Rainier National Park entrance at Carbon River, about 112 km and 985 meters of climbing. It took about 5 hours. It was very windy, and I was in snow at the end of the ride…

Carbon River entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park 08MAR2012

So, I bid you auf Wiedersehen.

Go Ron Paul!!!!!

March 3rd, 2012

Ron Paul

Today was Caucus day, and I went very reluctantly. Believe it or not, Ron Paul showed up in Puyallup. Betsy and I got to shake his hands, hear him speak, and cheer him on. The caucus was the most attended ever, and I think that Ron Paul supporters had a lot to do with it, even though few knew that he would be in Puyallup. In all, the 25th district gave Ron a very strong showing!  Here are a few photos of the meeting…

They expected only 750 caucus members, and over 2000 showed. This was the largest ever, spirited on by strong Ron Paul supporters, few of knew he would be here.

Ron was able to give a short speech. He is quite articulate without notes or reader board.

Dr. Bruce Romig and Dr. Ron Paul

My friend Wally Nash was there. Wally tends to make good decisions, but he's for one of those other characters that remind me of Barry Obama.

This afternoon we’ll go to the post-caucus party. Rooting on Ron!

 

 

On Reading

February 25th, 2012

I tend to read quite a bit, and even once had a full page add written up in World Magazine with my photo, about my love for books. I’ve occasionally been accused of reading too much. I recently encountered the blog page of M.N. (http://www.allthingsexpounded.com/) who I find also has a tremendous fascination with books. There are friends of mine who are quite fascinated with books, one person in particular, D.D., who probably owns about 10 x as many of books as me, is quite familiar with the content of the books he owns and the public sentiments toward the book, can recommend just about any book on any topic and be correct, but has rarely ever read a whole book. It reminded me of brother Lewis, who had a library full of books, all with bookmarks about 30 pages into the book. M.N. seems to be more like me, with a long list of books, and a book doesn’t get filed until it is either read, or I realize that it is not worth reading. I read a modest amount on the internet, mostly for news. Facebook annoys me, especially for its triviality, yet it remains a good way of staying in touch with many people without fear of going deeper than superficiality.

My old list of every-morning internet news pages has changed. I rarely ever read World Net Daily any more. The only columnists that I read regularly are Pat Buchanan, Judge Napolitano, and occasionally George Will. My favorite internet sites for news are…

1. http://www.drudgereport.com/
2. http://patriot-newswire.com/
3. http://www.infowars.com/
4. http://townhall.com/
5. http://www.newsmax.com/
6. http://www.spiegel.de/
7. http://www.bild.de/
I skim through World Magazine every other week, and Bicycle Magazine once monthly. A friend subscribed me for a year last year to National Review, which I enjoyed reading, though I had some problems with its Neo-Con and Papist orientation. My current reads, of which you will be seeing reviews, include God & Time – Four Views, and Dostoevsky by Peter Leithart (Kindle edition).

My reading list this year is….

Kindle – wise

The Gambler – Dostoevsky
The House of the Dead – Dostoevsky
The Idiot – Dostoevsky
Gulag Archipelago –  Solzhenitzyn
In the First Circle – Solzhenitzyn
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – Shirer
The Prince – Machiavelli
Babbitt – Sinclair Lewis
Affirming the Apostles Creed – JI Packer
History of the Christian Church – Schaff (read once already)
Devotional Treasures from the Holy Land – Delaney
Systematic Theology – Charles Hodge
Durch die Wüste – Karl May
Kinder und Hausmarchen – Grimm und Hauff (read once already)

Hard Books

The God of Miracles – Jack Collins
Enjoy every Sandwich – Lipsenthal
The Emperor of all Maladies
Cutting for Stone
Life Together – Bonhoeffer
The Revelation of God – Jensen
The Person of Christ – MacLeod
Collected Writings on Scripture – Carson
Christ of the Covenants – OP Robertson (read once already)
Mein Kampf – Hitler
Die Deutschen – Guido Knopf
Redemption Accomplished and Applied – Murray
The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination – Boettner
Historical Theology – Cunningham
Several Photography How-To Books
The Systematic Theologies of
Horton
Turretin
Bavinck
Shedd
Dabney
Reymond
Erickson (maybe???)

There are other books on the shelves, but, that’s enough for now. I think it will take me about 3 years to get through all these texts, but then I’ll probably add on another dozen or more in the next year.

 

Jimmy Obama

February 12th, 2012

Need we say more?

Jimmy_OBama

Hit on Jimmy OBama to play…

 

End of Year Ramblings

December 31st, 2011

The year is over. We are still alive in spite of Obama. Life goes on. The end of the year gives us pause to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re heading for the year to come.

2011 has been a good year. My surgical practice has slowed down a bit, and I am giving Obama just a little less support than in years past. I have not done as many bicycle rides as I wished. Betsy and I have been able to spend more time together, and that has been most enjoyable. One particular highlight of the year has been our trip to Europe, having Betsy meet Katja und Hannes for the first time, and getting to see Italy. It’s always a treat to touch base with Onkel Herbert. Russ Anderson has been very special this year in providing a real friend to go bicycling with. The elaboration of those trips last year can be found on the various blog posts in feuchtblog.net.

Betsy and I are thinking about next year. I will be going to about four surgical conferences, including the Miami Breast conference with Betsy and Society of Surgical Oncology meeting with Dr. Tate in Orlando, both in March. I’d like to go to the American Society of Breast Surgeons meeting in Phoenix in late April. Betsy and I also plan to go to the American College of Surgeons meeting in Chicago in October.  We anticipate a trip to Germany and Switzerland in early June, hopefully where I could do some bicycle riding with Russ and Carsten (and maybe Peter?), as well as seeing Katja and Hannes, Herbert, Hille (Herbert’s sister), Marike (student in Bonn whom we met in Cameroon, Udo Middelmann in Switzerland (Francis Schaeffer’s son-in-law) and our good friends Mike (and Carolyn) who is doing a year teaching Sabbatical in Lausanne, Switzerland. That might be a little too packed of an agenda, but… In November, Betsy and I are seriously planning a trip to Egypt, Jordan and Israel. We’ll do the tour sort of thing. I’ve never been to the Holy Land, but have always wished to go. If you are interested, come along with. We will be going with the Rev. Dr. John (http://www.biblicalisraeltours.com/), who I found after a long internet search.

I continue to ride my bike. Yesterday was enjoyable in taking Patrick for his first long bicycle ride. He did about 8 miles. Not bad for an 8 yo kid on a 20 inch bicycle. It got rather cold at the end, the sun going down about 15 minutes before the end of our ride. Typically, I’ll ride the trainer. It’s one of my bicycles hooked up to a virtual reality trainer (Tacx). I’ll usually have iTunes going. This last year, I’ve been working through the series on Romans by Martyn Lloyd-Jones while training. I am now down to about 97 more 50 minute sermons out of 353 sermons. That’s a lot of sermons on Romans, and tends to be repetitive. You’ll get a review on that series once I’m done with it.

While sitting at my computer, I listen to music. My iTunes has a total of 721 gBytes of music and lectures, etc. One may wonder what I do with so much music. Well, I listen to it. It’s mostly classical, a total of 359 gBytes, or 175 days of constant listening. Making a smart playlist, I started working through everything a little over a year ago. I’m now down to 94 days, or 196 gBytes of classical music left. Right now, I’m listening to a little known piano concerto by Mendelssohn, which is actually quite good and doesn’t deserve obscurity — a trait true of much of classical music.

I continue to read every moment possible. Currently I am working through Gregg Allison’s Historical Theology, and am about 1/2 way through. I am reading Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevski on the Kindle. I have a massive lineup of books remaining on my shelves and in the Kindle store that I must read. I’ll need to quit medicine just to get my reading done. For time with Betsy, we’ll usually watch things like Teaching Company series together, and are currently working on a series about Oceanography. We are becoming adept at speaking about the pelagic vs. neridic realms of the ocean, knowing the difference between plankton and nekton, etc., etc., as well as understanding the various forces that make the ocean a wonderful world. For a lighter note, Betsy and I will watch movies. We have just started the films of Clint Eastwood, a total of about 40 that we’ll be seeing. Reviews for those films will have to wait! We still don’t have television, and I refuse to pay for cable. When we must watch something, we’ll watch it over the internet if it’s available.

I will be turning 58 in 2012. I’m not sure how much longer I will want to continue practicing medicine. It’s a serious love-hate relationship. I love the practice of surgery, but it’s everything else that one needs to put up with. Government has taken complete control of medicine, and turned it into an uncaring prohibitively expensive beast. Desperately needed tort reform is now a long-gone wish. As one pundit commented, “America is no longer governed by the rule of law, but by the rule of lawyers”. Such a statement could not be closer to the truth. Political processes are always preempted by court decisions. Democratic or Republic behavior no longer exists in the USA. We are governed by the tyranny of the courts. It wouldn’t be so bad if lawyers were behaved. Unfortunately, lawyers have devolved into a subhuman species. It’s hard to know what to compare them to, but the cyclops  is most fitting. Cyclops have only one eye, are monsters seeking to destroy anything alive that is not one of their own, will act even more intentionally and violently when their one eye is put out, a threat to anything else in existence. That’s the good part about what I have to say about lawyers. Don’t get me going on their bad side.

Those of us that work in the public realm have occasions from time to time with lawyers. Much of this we are not allowed to openly discuss for privacy concerns, and so will discretely tailor my statements. Physicians are advised to avoid a jury trial as much as possible, as juries tend to ignore the facts and are easily swayed by emotion. There is no rule of law in the courtroom. The selection of juries has become a joke. It used to be a trial by your peers or neighbors. Now, it is a trial before the a highly selected group of individuals based on the bias of the judge, people who would rather be anywhere than setting on a jury or people who are so worthless in society they have nothing better in life to do. The instructions to the jury often counter the constitution, which is why I will not set on a jury. I’ve written more on this elsewhere. The prevailing consensus among Joe Public is that justice no longer exists, and that is for the most part true. Why do we do everything to avoid the courts? If our neighbor sues us for using the wrong type of fertilizer that gives him asthma attacks, the costs in court will be prohibitive, it will be unbearable stress, and a flip of the coin will determine which way the judge may lean, even after hours of defending your case. It’s too easy to create a case, as you have little to loose in the process. Lawyers will determine the case based on their merit, which means, if it is possible for the lawyer to make a good profit off of a case. In the end, the plaintiff and defendant lawyers win, and the plaintiff and defendant loose. I’ve seen so many people destroy their lives by taking someone else to court, get lost in a long court trial, and even if they win the trial, much of the money ends up squandered or in the hands of the lawyers. Nobody but the lawyers win. We were taught well as kids to never sue, and for the most part, that remains true. There are three prongs to the solution. 1. Go back to the European court process where the looser pays all court costs. 2. Use Biblical law, which truly punishes offenses to others and demands restitution or death penalty in serious cases. There is no prison term in Biblical law. If you are a violent murderer, you die. If you stole, you repay. If your debt is too great, you become an indentured servant (slave) for 7 years to the person you owe to. Bankruptcy would not be tolerated, and Donald Trump would be picking cotton for the next 30 years. 3. Return to a Christian society that thinks in a Judeo-Christian fashion and holds Christian morality as the highest of all possible goods. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to happen, even if every non-Christian were immediately terminated. So, we tolerate matters, try to keep our nose clean by living morally, and if one must suffer for doing good, they will get their blessing and reward in the end. It is good that for a Christian, this short life is not the totality of existence.

So, I wish you all a happy New Year.  Keep looking up, and keep  your stick on the ice.

Never Lose Hope

December 30th, 2011

It has been uncommon for me to write commentaries of late, in part because there seems to be minimal feedback from the internet community. In my earlier years of web blogging, I used iWeb and it facilitated readers adding comments for feedback. I would never wish to go to a social networking type style, such as with FaceBook, in that it tends to breed short, abrupt thought processes that do not have premises, reasoning, and conclusions demonstrated. It is meaningless prattle. No, even if I love you, I’m not interested in your kid graduating from pre-school, or where you went out to eat last night, that is, unless these events have a significant meaning in your life, and you offer explanation as to how these events were significant life-events.

Hope. It is one of the three Christian virtues. Faith, hope, and love. Just as we don’t wish to ever cause another person to loose love or faith (in Christ), we never wish to cause a person to lose hope. But, hope in what? I am on rare occasion accused of causing my patients to lose hope. Generally, I try to tell the patient the exact truth. If I don’t, they’ll get it over the internet. I feel that integrity is a foremost virtue for a physician. I have heard many doctors argue otherwise. Dr. Lauren Pancratz argues vehemently that if a lie (deviation from the whole truth) contributes to the betterment of a patient, then we should lie to our patient. I disagree entirely. Truth must be presented graciously and skillfully, but it must be presented all the same.

I see many patients that come from other doctors, mostly medical oncologists, who were never told the significance of their cancer. For many medical oncologists, hope  in “the system” must be preserved. Perhaps much of this is self-serving. I find that only 5% of patients do not wish to know the truth of their condition. Most patients welcome it, often are relieved and are happy that they can better understand their condition and make long-term plans with better knowledge of their condition.

There is a balance that physicians struggle with. If there is a reasonable expectation that the health care system can significantly improve their condition, then I will strive to be positive, even if the short term outcome is expected to be dismal. In one sense, there is always hope, but that hope depends on the objectives of the physician/patient encounter. If the expectation is to prolong life no matter how miserable that life might be, the treatment options are going to be different than if the objective is to simply offer comfort measures. Both contain hope that the therapy will work, but the outcome expectations are different. Thus, in a real sense, hope is never lost.

The source for hope is my greatest concern. Patients usually do well or do poorly in spite of me. Health care professionals have less control of a situation than they would like to believe. To trust that the health care profession will provide health is a mis-direction of one’s trust. It is always a pleasure when a patient comes to me, realizing that only God can give them hope, and trust in Him is of greatest value. It is a pity that so many devout Christians have a seriously displaced hope, trusting entirely in the physician, and not seeing that even the best physicians have feet of clay. Balance is important. To ignore the physicians that God provides is unwise. To expect that physicians always know best is also unwise. Many Christians run to Hookey-Pookey medicine (Chiropractors/Naturopaths) feeling that they are more “natural” or “christian” than mainline medical practice — that is also highly unwise.

We don’t want our patients to loose hope. We wish for them to have the correct source for their hope. We wish them to have realistic expectations. We wish them never to give up. We wish them to be able to change expectations when the facts suggest it. Mostly we wish them to maintain the three Christian virtues, faith, hope and love, up to the very last breath that they take.

Tea

August 14th, 2011

I have given up most of my coffee consumption and turned to tea. At first, I used tea bags, and had about 10-15 different varieties. I was always in amazement when Dr. Liao would decline having tea, as he commented that he just didn’t like the taste of the tea that I brewed up. So, I asked him to bring me back some good chinese tea on his next trip to China. He did, and brought me a box that had eight different flavors.

Since then, I’ve slowly evolved into using only tea leaves. You can see my tea cabinet. Only a portion of the teas I brew are visible, and some are actually just using old containers.

I brew the tea in a white ceramic pot or cast iron pot, kept warm over a tea candle apparatus.

I use a Finum strainer for the tea. These are very nice, since you can remove the tea leaves after the appropriate infusion time, and can reinfuse the leaves quite easily. The lid also serves as a convenient base to prevent tea from getting on the counter.

At the office, I use a larger ceramic pot, with a hot water pot to boil the water.

Learning how to properly brew tea takes practice, experience, but a good book also gives one an idea as to techniques for making the perfect pot of tea. The book below also discusses the various types of tea, their origin and their differences. Generally, there are Chinese vs. Indian teas. Africa does produce some teas like Rooibos, which I’ve found to be quite distasteful. The Chinese/Indian teas vary from black, Oolong, green, flavored (like Jasmine), mixed (like Earl Grey), or moldy (like Pu-Erh). Pu-Erh tea is actually quite interesting, in that the 2-5 infusions are all quite good. The tea smells like a barnyard, but the taste is very nice.

The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook, by M. Heiss and R. Heiss ???

This book is a good introductory summary for the tea lover. Happy brewing!!!

Alaska 01-07AUG2011

August 14th, 2011


Alaska 01-07AUG2011

This trip had several objectives. The first was to meet with Dr. Lattin and give a breast cancer update talk at his hospital. The second was to achieve a brief rest and relaxation while meeting friends, including not only the Lattins whom we met in Bangladesh, but also the Bankers, who attended Resurrection Presbyterian church with us in the past. We spent 3 nights in Anchorage, followed by three nights in Soldotna with the Lattins.

The first day in Anchorage was to simply settle in. We drove downtown, and shopped for moose hats and other Alaska paraphernalia. Betsy fell in love with the moose.

The second day, we drove up to Wasilla, and then out towards Tok. The mountains were stupendous. In the evening, we met with Jeff and Ellen Banker, and went out to eat. The seafood was incredible! The beer was quite good also.

The third day was mostly resting. I met with Jeff again, still recovering from hand surgery, and ran up to the top of Flattop Mountain. The most distinctive feature of Flattop Mountain is its flat top.

The fourth day, we checked out of our hotel and headed down to Soldotna. The drive is quite beautiful, with the seashore on one side, and immense mountains on the other side.

The fifth day, I gave my cancer talk. Later, we went out to dinner, and then drove to the beach in Kenai. We were able to see Mt. Iliamna and Mt. Redoubt.

The sixth day was a walk for life for Betsy and Anna, and a fishing trip for Jason, Nathan and myself. We drove down to Homer, and took off on a chartered boat out into Cook Inlet.