Sunday, December 1, 2013

Socialism of the worst kind: taking from the poor to benefit the rich

Lately I've been getting a lot of emails from trying to get me to sign petitions to support Obamacare or things I should do to stop the program from failing. A lot of these emails have pointed out a certain fact: that Obamacare needs the young to enroll in order for the program to work.

The reason for this is most young people don't need healthcare or need less than they would actually pay in health care premiums, this extra money is then used to take care of the older portion of the population whose contribution to the insurance company is less than what the insurance company pays to take care of them.

The problem? According to this report, the young are actually the ones that don't have the money. In fact much of my generation is unemployed. Blame who you will, the fact of the matter is most people in my age group are either 1) not employed or 2) not making much money.

So basically, this program relies on wealth redistribution from the poor to the wealthier. This is a travesty augmented by the fact that the young are the ones who need to start families before their fertility drops. Right now, our birth rate is below replacement (and adoption ain't cheap folks). Just having bad population growth in and of itself bankrupts socialist programs that rely on the young to pay for the old. So the young need to have kids AND fork out extra money to insurance companies to pay for the old's healthcare. Obamacare is a poorly designed system and it isn't helping with some of the larger issues the USA is facing.

Don't get me wrong, I think reform needed to happen. But the problem with Obamacare is that it focused on the cost of healthcare from the standpoint of the insurance companies instead of from the standpoint of the actual cost. Right now, we have a shortage of doctors. Right now, most of our doctors leave med school in huge amounts of debt. Both of those facts drive up health care cost. Prescriptions for the elderly cost a ton and too many politicians in Washington are in bed with the pharmaceutical companies to stop them from price gouging. That's why we passed legislation to subsidize them for the elderly instead of finding a way to drive down the costs in the market. Reforming the way insurance companies do business does little to alleviate the problem when most of them are coming from the industry itself.

But as you can tell from my analysis, my will to support a poorly designed law and poorly designed form of socialism is near zero. So every time I get those emails, I chuckle a little wishing I cared and move on with life.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

These aren't the leaders we want.

So I read something somewhere. Some people believe it's historical fact, others just a fable made up by someone, but I feel its message is definitely applicable to the current situation in Washington. The story goes like this: there's two military leaders who each control a portion of the same country. Each one believes they have the right to the whole country, and so naturally, a war breaks out between the two different factions. Well this carries on for a very long time, to the point at which everyone is involved in the conflict. At this point, the leaders of one of the factions sees how much destruction has been wrought and offers to surrender his portion of the country to the other military leader. The other military leader demands that the one who offered to surrender give up his life along with the rest of the country. Well, the one who surrendered looked around and realized everyone fighting for him was so embittered, that surrender would do no good, so they carried on the fight. Well, in the end, because neither side would budge, both factions and the country were destroyed.

The same thing is going on in Washington right now. The new Senate deal? It was pretty much the same thing Boehner proposed in the House.  Compromise? Nope, all communication between the House and the White House is shut down. Obama actually almost folded (according to one story I read), but then Harry Reid egged him on saying that they wouldn't compromise and Obama not folding was justified. Basically, both sides seem so embittered that they don't want to surrender. What's at stake? Well only the lives of two little boys my former High School English teacher is trying to provide for off of her meager salary, the world's economy with the US dollar as its reserve currency and the entire economic well-being of the entire nation. Looking at the language between the two different parties, it seems to me like both want the default. I think both as self-assured the other will take the blame and it will cause people to give their party more power and influence.

Well here's my little message to America: we don't want leaders that are willing to sacrifice our well-being and our way of life for their own ends. Our history is playing out like the story, and leaders like that don't deserve to lead the world's most powerful economy or the world's most powerful democracy. We seriously need to start a 3rd party that is not unified within itself that everyone votes for instead of either party, so no one will ever be able to believe they can wrest the control of our country at the expense of everyone else and we as a people, show our leaders we will only support leaders worth supporting.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

New Testament study: the Lord's prayer phrase and what does the truth mean to you?

The first part of this post talks about a difference in the Lord's prayer between the English version and the Dutch version. The second part talks

Background: So I was reading in the New Testament yesterday, and I've been reading it in Dutch actually. I'm doing everything I can to not lose it, so most of my scripture and Gospel study has been happening in Dutch. I hope I don't starve spiritually because of this decision, but I'm doing my best to make sure I understand everything. Google Translate is a great pseudo-dictionary.

Fun realization about the Lord's prayer: When I was reading this phrase in the Lord's prayer "En leid ons niet in verzoeking, maar verlos ons van den boze." Something caught my eye. Here, the verb leiden (English: to lead) is used with the preposition "in." (English: in) That's weird, because in modern Dutch, if you denote being led to something you say "Leid naar..." Now I understand this is older Dutch, so maybe I don't understand everything, so I did a little text search on the verb stem leid through different chapters, to see the other prepositions it was used with. I found this chapter, and in the beginning, it uses "leiden" with the preposition "tot" which can also mean "to, toward" in English, so my suspicion is correct, the phrase is not saying "And lead us not into temptation..." like in the English phrasing:"And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil." There's obviously a difference in meaning between the two translations. The Dutch one in my opinion is saying "And lead us not in temptation, but save us from evil." Which I take to mean that if you're being tempted by something, then the last part of the prayer is asking for help avoiding it, instead of it being allowed to continue with you while you're receiving Heavenly Father's help.

The most powerful lesson I learned: The thing that struck me the most about Luke Chapter 11 was the end of the chapter made it sound like Jesus drew the hatred and malice of the Pharisees and the scribes because he chastises them for corrupting their religion. He's not lying, but his words obviously stoke their hatred. What hit me really hard about these passages of scripture was the importance of self honesty and acceptance. The slaying of Jesus came about because some people weren't willing to accept the truth when they were being told it. Yes, it was negative what Jesus was saying, but it was not untrue. This just showed me that if we want help preparing ourselves to meet Heavenly Father again, we need to be able to accept some of the not so nice things about ourselves. Because if we can't recognize those things then we can't fix them.

There's a little passage from the Book of Mormon that goes directly with this realization:

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

- Ether 12:27

I really like how strongly the Book of Mormon and Bible support each other and expound on each other when teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This passage does a good job of showing us that we don't have to be ashamed of our weaknesses, because we will be given the power to overcome them if we do what's right.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

So I'm eating carbs again

I never told the world this, but I started eating low-carb after reading Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. He made a very compelling argument backed up by lots of research (some of it very old) showing that it's not just the "calories in, calories out" formula but triggers in our body that cause us to gain weight. He blames carbohydrates as the primary culprits for weight gain and explains the insulin cycle very well.

His short summary was that carbohydrates spike blood sugar which caused the body to release insulin, insulin causes the body's cells to absorb blood sugars and convert them to fat, therefore eating carbs is why we're fat. He also directly attacks the calories in, calories out theory citing studies showing people that are thinner eating the same amount as their thicker counterparts even in the presence of exercise and even goes on to show evidence that if you cut calories, more often than not your metabolic rate slows, the body doesn't usually use fat. I think there's exceptions to this rule when there's people that are food addicts, but for most people who have a little extra around the waist, I think this is true.

Gary then moves on to attack the notion that high blood cholesterol is caused by eating too much cholesterol. He shows examples from President Eisenhower's struggle to combat high cholesterol as evidence of the fallacy that eating too much cholesterol causes high cholesterol levels, but that they are actually caused by a high % body fat in most people (I have a cousin who has metabolic problems, so she actually does have to watch her blood cholesterol). But for normal people, Gary is right, the body absorbs cholesterol with respect to its % body fat and even creates it if the levels don't match what they should be according to your % body fat. Long story short: Lose fat if you want to lower cholesterol.

Anyway, long story short I read Gary's book just after gaining about 6% body fat. I was also eating pasta for dinner at the time I didn't eat more than 700-1000 calories and usually had less at another time of the day to make up for it and I would swim a lot too. Later, I went on to take Gary's suggestion and initially I lost about 4.5% body fat. But then after that initial loss, I started feeling really weird. Like I would be satiated (my stomach would feel fine, etc) but my body would feel starved. I ended up eating carbs on and off in order to feel better, but was still scared of them (for the most part, if I lost wieght, I'd eat more in a heartbeat).

Then I decided to do some research a few days ago that helped me understand carbohydrates better. First, you can spike your insulin levels with proteins and fats, it's just harder to. Glucose spikes insulin levels easier than proteins and fat. There are also things you can do to prevent carbohydrates from spiking your insulin levels. Eating protein and fiber with carbohydrates slows the rate of their absorption into the bloodstream. Also, most carbohydrates convert to glucose after being processed. Apparently it takes more effort for the body to store glucose as fat than fat or fructose. Fructose is wierd, it acts kind of like a fat with respect to insulin regulation, but is actually a carb. This article talks a little about this and shows how high fructose corn syrup has been linked to more weight problems here in the US.

Basically, I think Gary Taubes was right on a lot of fronts, but his demonization of carbohydrates is unnecessary. I've been feeling better since I started eating more carbs (but wisely) and think that there's a good plug to be put in for both exercise and blood sugar control.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Stranger at a Mormon Wedding

Last week a friend invited me to go with her to a wedding in LA because she was heading over with an engaged couple and didn't want to be the third wheel. It was kind of an out of the blue invitation, but decided to go because when I prayed about it, I had a good feeling. So, I went on a weekend adventure to LA.

I actually ended up at the wedding ceremony itself (it's called a sealing when it's performed at our temple). Which is actually kind of a privilege and kind of unexpected. Sealings are performed in our temples and there isn't much room in the sealing rooms (kind of on purpose) so those attending are usually close friends and family. The biggest difference I would say between a mainstream Christianity wedding and an LDS wedding is that when a sealing is performed the ecclesiastical authority does it with the sealing power given to Peter in order for the marriage to last beyond the grave. This is because we don't believe Jesus was lying when he taught the Pharisees that people married by the priesthood held by the Levites don't keep their marriage after this life (Luke 20:27-35). But we also believe that Heavenly Father intended for the relationship between man and woman to extend beyond the grave if they are worthy (1 Corinthians 11:11) "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord." In order to settle this seeming conflict in the Bible, we believe that the prophet Joseph Smith received revelation that instructed him that weddings performed by the sealing power given to Peter would extend beyond the grave. 

I'm really grateful the family let me tag along for it. The sealer made special care to highlight certain aspects of the covenant made between the two spouses as well as the covenant they were making with the Lord. It gave me a deeper understanding of the sealing covenant. It was really cool for me at the end of the covenant as well, because after the two spouses accepted the covenant and the sealer pronounced them husband and wife, I felt a strong manifestation of the Holy Spirit. I was like "Wow, these two people are going to be together forever if they keep living the way they have."

After the wedding, I helped out with the reception. That was also a really cool experience for me because their family was really nice to me. I was a complete stranger but they treated me like I was one of them. I will probably never see them again, but I was really grateful for that experience.

I did a lot of other fun things, like hitting the beach and disneytown but I would have to say being at the sealing and helping out with the reception were the highlights of my LA trip. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Ocarina

So I've been really busy lately, but I also realized that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Right now I've been focusing more on my Master's and trying to survive my only real class (Machine Learning). But I recently deleted my games. I realized video games are in no way healing or helpful, even when I need a break. They sort of help you if you have self-esteem issues (false sense of accomplishment) but give little outside that false feeling. So I've deleted mine, I don't need them any more. But what I DID do was buy an Ocarina. I'm hoping to use this as my sanity break from the world when I'm bored or feel overwhelmed.

I chose the Ocarina for a few reasons: The name sounds cool (and I was even more stoked when I found out it was real! Yes I did hear about it because of Zelda, but I am NOT an avid Zelda fan, The most I've done with the series personally was play Sheik on Smash Brother Melee on my roommate's game cube my freshman year of college, aeons ago). The Ocarina actually sounds kind of like a bird. The single-chamber ones with the largest range only have a range of an octave and a half. This seems large enough to play and learn a few interesting songs, while not being overbearing in terms of learning it. Also I played the clarinet in middle school, so I'm a little bit more at home using a wind instrument as opposed to others.

So my research has shown the cheaper ones come in plastic variety and more expensive ones are ceramic and sound better. The one I chose was this. I had seen youtube videos of people with ceramic focalink ocarinas playing Zelda themes and they souded really nice, so I decided to get it. I intentionally avoided a Zelda-style design because I didn't want it to look like I was getting the instrument because I was a Zelda fan. I DID buy the Zelda songbook, because it had a variety of songs of varying difficulty and Zelda themes don't sound too bad.

Also the 12-hole Ocarinas have two different types. One is higher, the other is lower. In my opinion Focalink's alto C is better than its Soprano G. The Soprano G goes kind of high and sounds shrill to me for that reason. It's interesting though because it's not a standardized instrument, so different companies will call the same instruments different things. STLOcarina calls Focalink's Alto C 12-hole a "Tenor 12-hole" I believe. 

I really wanted to learn the "Song of the Sylph" on the Ocarina, but I guess that won't be a possibility, my sister was going to listen to it and get me the music, but she told me it doesn't have the range, she said she might be able to transpose it to a different key to get it to work. O well, I'll still have fun learning a new instrument, even if it doesn't work out. The "Song of the Sylph" is a relaxing tune. It was composed by Ben Houge and can be downloaded from his site at this link.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Why I've been away

Well at the beginning of Fall semester, my Master's proposal got tanked and I had to change it. Basically, neither me or my advisor liked my project looking back at it. So I spent a lot of Fall semester rewriting a new proposal. The good news: It passed! I have permission to move on and do the new project. The bad news: I'm awfully behind. I'm trying to get enough done now so it won't be hard to finish it off when I get back from my internship at Google this summer. I guess maybe I should make some posts about Google along the way. I'm super excited because the project seems to be very useful for the people using the service (I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to disclose).

So long story short: Sorry I haven't been around much if you liked any of my posts.

The good news: I've been swimming still! In fact, I bought some hand paddles because I THINK I'm ready for them now! Also, I got my best time so far on 1600 yds today (28:41). I'd also like to put in a good word for Yoga. The yoga I've been doing every week appears to be paying off! I don't have as many shoulder problems during swimming as I did before I started yoga. I go to a yoga class once a week and I do some basic stretches/poses right before going to bed.

The only annoying thing about it, is I'm usually the only guy there. It's weird because in Seattle, usually at least 1/4th of the class was guys. Here in Utah, like 3% (me). I don't know why but I feel like in Utah, gender associations with certain activities are a lot stronger. Which is kind of weird to me because it's not like the LDS religion preaches yoga is only for girls. O well. I'll swallow my man pride in this case for the sake of health and performance

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Another Recipe

So world I'm really sorry I haven't been around much lately. It's kind of been one thing after another taking up my time. BUT here's another recipe, it's in Dutch, but the picture of it looked amazing!

Je hebt nodig:
- een biscuit van 20 cm (zelf bakken en sommige taartwinkels verkopen ze ook gewoon)
- 2 x grote reep melk chocola van 200 gr (mag gewoon Jumbo, AH merk zijn)
- bekertje (250 ml) slagroom
- vulling voor de taart naar keuze (bijv. een laagje jam/vlaaifruit en een laag banketbakkersroom, slagroom of botercreme.
- 3 x een five-pack KitKat
- 1 pakje (250 gr) lichtroze marsepein
- taartzaag of groot mes
- sate prikker (voor de oogjes vh varkentje)
- lint
- plat bord of plank om de taart op te zetten

Van te voren maak je alvast de varkentjes, hier is geen echte werkwijze voor...gewoon een beetje boetseren zoals op de lagere school vroeger ;)

Doe de slagroom in een pannetje en zet op laag vuur.
Blijven roeren tot het net niet kookt.
Ondertussen de reep chocola in blokjes breken.
Als de slagroom bijna kookt het vuur uit en in gedeeltes de blokjes chocola erdoor roeren.
Goed roeren tot je een gladde massa hebt.
Dit af laten koelen en dikker laten worden en af en toe roeren(duurt wel een poosje).

In de tussentijd je biscuit wat je al gebakken hebt in 2 lagen snijden, en je taart vullen met je vulling naar keuze.
Hou je taart voorlopig nog even op een broodplank of andere ondergrond wat je makkelijk kan ronddraaien want de zijkanten afsmeren wordt dalijk een lekkere kliederboel :)
Breek alvast de kitkats in 2-en en leg ze klaar.
Kijk hoe het is met het chocolademengsel, als hij ongeveer zo dik is als bijv. vla kun je de zijkanten gaan insmeren ermee.
Gebruik een spatel of gewoon de achterkant van een mes.

Als je de hele taart rondom hebt ingesmeerd ga je de kitkats er tegenaan plakken.
Dit is een lastig klusje, de kitkats blijven nog niet genoeg plakken dus vallen af en toe om.
Zet ze dan een heel klein beetje schuin zodat ze tegen je taart aan leunen.
Als ze er allemaal omheen zitten doe je er snel een lint omheen en zet je ze allemaal mooi recht.

Als de rest van het choco mengsel nog net vloeibaar is giet je dit bovenop de taart.
Let op, las het nog te dun is gaat het door de kitkats heen lopen!

Vervolgens zet je de varkentjes in de nog zachte chocolade en zet in de koelkast.

Na een uurtje kun je de taart op een mooi bord zetten en serveren, eet smakelijk!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Best Cheesecake Ever!

My sister made an amazing cheesecake for New Year's. Here's a link to the original recipe.

Here's the recipe (just in case it vanishes. It's a recipe too good to lose!)

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache, Toasted Hazelnuts, & Sea Salt
A rich, decadent cheesecake with dark chocolate topped with a chocolate hazelnut butter ganache, toasted hazelnuts, and sea salt. Chocolate heaven and mind-blowing.
Recipe type: Dessert, Cheesecake
Serves: 16
  • 3/4 cup FAGE Total Greek Yogurt 2%
  • 24 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 10 ounces (1 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (use dark cocoa for more intensity)
  • 10 ounces 72% dark chocolate, chopped
  • 25 chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreos are good)
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache:
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) chocolate hazelnut butter (Nutella)
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) heavy cream
  • 2 ounces 72% dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus more if desired
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. Place chocolate sandwich cookies and hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse until finely ground; add melted butter and process again until well combined and cookie crumbs resemble wet sand.
  3. Scrape into prepared pan and use fingers to press into the bottom and up the side of the pan, making sure the crust is even. Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes. Place on wire rack to cool. Keep oven temperature.
  4. Prepare cheesecake filling by placing 10 oz. of chopped chocolate in a double boiler until smooth and creamy. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  5. In an electric or stand mixer, beat cream cheese and FAGE Total 2% Greek Yogurt until smooth and fluffy. Add in sugar and cocoa powder and beat again until smooth, then add in eggs and egg yolks; blending until there is a silky consistency. Fold in melted chocolate until well combined.
  6. Pour chocolate cheesecake filling over the cooled crust and smooth the top with a spatula. Tap a few times to release any air in the batter.
  7. Bake until center is just set and just appears dry, about 1 hour and 15 minutes, but check at 1 hour. Do not worry if the cheesecake cracks while baking; this will be covered with ganache.
  8. Cool the cheesecake 10 minutes, then run a knife around the crust to loosen it. Chill the cheesecake a minimum of 4 hours in fridge, although overnight is best.
  9. To make the Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache:
  10. In a medium saucepan, heat cream over medium-low heat. Add chocolate hazelnut butter and stir until smooth. Add in 2 ounces of chopped dark chocolate and stir until melted. Pour or drizzle over the center of the chocolate cheesecake and spread to outer edges to help cover any cracks. Top with toasted hazelnuts and sprinkle with sea salt.
  11. Serve while ganache is warm or place in refrigerator to cool. Cut into 12-16 slices and enjoy!