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Patch Adams

Sunday, October 31, 2010
I've never had an opportunity to listen to a real, live revolutionary. Tonight, that changed. I went to the Mississippi Studios to listen to Patch Adams, the doctor made famous by the movie.

Patch Adams

The talk was quite interesting. Though I disagree with some of his politics - I am a capitalist and the good doctor is not - he was undeniably brilliant and brought an amazing energy to the room. He spoke with true modesty that I respected, and made several good points about healthcare and the practice of it.

In particular, he spoke of designing a hospital that ran at 1/10th the cost of a current healthcare facility. Most of the way this was accomplished was by the staff (doctors, nurses, etc) taking little to no salary. To me this doesn't seem to be a sustainable or scalable model; the education required to achieve such a position is costly and soliciting donations to subsidize the cost of health care and/or education merely shifts the costs of such a service from the patient to a donor. If, however, he were to form a university capable of teaching medicine in such as way as to not be cost-prohibitive, he might be on to something. I just think he's starting at the end and working backwards.

I did agree with him on the importance of bringing humanity to health care. He emphasizes bedside manner and developing a relationship with the patient that is often overlooked or absent in today's 12-minute visits and consultations.

In the end, though we differ politically, I left with a profound respect for his commitment to his beliefs, his willingness to live by them, and that he didn't see this as a "sacrifice" even though others might. From his talk I gained new ideas, fleshed out existing ones, and learned just a little bit more. I'm very glad I went.

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Sunday, October 24, 2010
After hearing a bunch of good reviews, I finally had a chance to see Scott Pilgrim vs. the World at the St. Johns McMenamins theatre.

Check out the trailer:

So the levels of awesome in this film defy description. Imagine you're me: geeky, have played my fair share of video games (and probably yours, too), enjoy movies, sarcasm, dry humor, and witty remarks. The target demographic for this movie definitely included me, and I loved every minute of it.

The basic premise is that our titular character, Scott Pilgrim, is an emotionally guarded twenty-something slacker with a band, a gay roommate, and a judgmental sister. He's dating an obscenely young gal when he meets the woman of his dreams, Ramona. He likes her, she likes him, and all would be great except she has seven evil exes that need defeating. Scott helps lead his band through the battle of the bands while fighting these various villains.

This is not a movie to take seriously. This is not a movie for people who don't like movie-meta humor or for whom "weird" is a negative adjective. This is not a movie that, as far as I could tell, had a point other than "be excellent". And it was.

Final word on Scott Pilgrim vs. The World? If you're anything like me, see it a dozen times.

Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum

Wednesday, October 06, 2010
As I'm in the Washington, DC area, my family decided that it would be a great time to make a trip the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport. (Apparently nothing here has a quick, short name.) Anyway, given that an interest in both space and flight runs strong in my family, we went there for a day of looking at the history of air and space flight and the vehicles associated with it.

The Smithsonian has a fantastic collection there. Not only is the SR-71 Blackbird displayed front and center, with the space shuttle Enterprise looming in the background, but they have the Enola Gay, a Concorde SST, and several other complete historically significant aircraft, dating from 1909 to a modern prototype X-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but almost all of the aircraft on display have been active. Several of the Korean war and Vietnam war era aircraft were displayed with a count of the MiGs that particular aircraft had shot down. Of course, there were also several MiG aircraft on display, all with an unexplained "date of acquisition" .

Seeing the evolution of aircraft was amazing and thought-provoking. At some point, about a hundred years ago, people were going up in wooden planes that had wire-rim wheels, a top speed of 80 mph, and the most primitive of controls and instrumentation. Yet, as we continued through the museum, there was a passenger airliner capable of crossing the Atlantic in 4 hours, a wide variety of gyrocopters and helicopters, a NASA-developed solar-powered aircraft capable of staying aloft indefinitely, and combat-ready airplane that could launch from aircraft carriers. All that, of course, was before the space wing where they had a variety of historically significant rockets, prototype Mars rovers on display, and rocket engines so large and powerful they could lift a ship into space. To think that it took us only about 60 or so years from the first flight of 20 feet to start hurling objects into orbit is amazing.

So where has that drive gone? In many ways, it has been fear and war that has driven so much of humanity's progress in this field. Flight was still in its infancy in World War I, yet by World War II jet engines and rockets were developed. The United States hurried into space, afraid that the Russians would get there first and dominate it. But we don't have that fear any more, and the painfully slow continual progress of space exploration shows it. How can we get that drive back, without the accompanying fear?

Row for the Cure

Sunday, October 03, 2010
Given two DragonBoat practice sessions under my belt and their need for a warm body, this morning I joined team Shibumi for the Row for the Cure on the Willamette River. This was to be, as I understood it, a roughly 2500 meter endurance race.

8:30 came awfully early in the morning as I braved the Portland mist to head down to the river. Rain was lightly falling as I grabbed my Personal Floatation Device (remember when we just called them "life vests"?) and joined up with the rest of the team. I already had a seat assignment, presumably in the place where I could do the least amount of damage.

Row for the Cure shirt

We warmed up by paddling in a large loop to the starting area near the Hawthorne Bridge, which was, incidentally, closed for maintenance and, with the lift span up, continually beeping as it does. That was fun. Still, our warmup seemed awfully long, to the point that I was getting tired and we hadn't even started yet. Still, since everyone else had vastly more experience than me and a considerable amount of practice doing this, it was probably right for them. We lined up near all manner of other watercraft, as everything from kayaks to outriggers were taking part in this race.

And then we started.

What followed was about eleven and a half minutes of intense paddling as the whole boat surged forward with amazing rhythm while our 20 paddlers propelled the boat forward with incredible power. As we went from the Hawthorne to the Morrison and then headed toward the Burnside Bridge, we started gaining quickly on another boat. We had caught up with them just as we passed under the bridge, but our positioning put us in an awkward place as we looped around the bridge's supports. We got stuck on a wider outside path as other boats all tried to make the turn. Since I was on the side of the boat on the inside of the turn, I took a few seconds to catch my breath as my paddling wasn't needed and my whole upper torso was already burning.

On the return trip we targeted the boat we'd almost overtaken and passed them with ease, powering our way toward the finish line. Again we passed under the Morrison bridge and raced toward the finish line. Apparently, we even finished 2nd in our class of Mixed Dragonboat!

And now? As, I understand, is typical for this sort of thing, I'm tired and sore. It's amazing what just 12 minutes of exertion can do when it's 12 minutes of pushing muscles I rarely use to the limit. I'll be feeling this one for a couple days.



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