Monday, January 29, 2007

Book Review -- "The Maker's Diet"

My dad graciously gave me this book when we stayed with them for Thanksgiving, and I finally finished it recently. Here's a little background on the book:

The author is a doctor who almost died of severe Crohn's disease as a teenager -- his body had simply lost the ability to absorb nutrients from food. He is Jewish and eventually returned to the strict Jewish diet and hygenic lifestyle that's recorded in the Old Testament (mostly the book of Leviticus). By hygenic I don't mean anitseptic by any means; it's more of a "return to the earth" and letting the good bacteria and flora work in our system. Within months he had fully recovered his health, and now he claims that his diet, supplement and hygiene regimen can help lose weight, regain energy and even cure disease.

What I Liked

He seems very passionate and geniune about his journey, and a lot of the science behind his recommendations is solid. I thought several of his points about diet and hygiene were right on:

  • Fatty foods aren't killing Americans... refined carbohydrates are. The human body just wasn't designed to run optimally with insulin spikes all day long. Look up some statistics about the Type-2 diabetes epidemic in our country if you don't believe me.
  • A good mix of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and even some saturated fats (animal fat, mostly) are essential for good health. Dietary fat doesn't necessarily make you fat, just like dietary cholesterol hasn't really been shown to raise blood cholesterol. The human body is weird like that.
  • Vegetables are essential. Period. Eat lots of colors and lots of textures; variety is good.
  • Meat is very good. Beef, poultry and turkey are all good sources of protein, healthy fats and tons of quality phytonutrients (this means it's neither a vitamin nor a mineral). It's important to avoid meat from animals fed a steady diet of corn, antibiotics and growth hormones. Grass-fed animals produce far superior meat.
  • Milk is okay, but the healthy reputation is a little overblown. Again, organic is key. My family only buys Horizon-brand milk for this reason (they promise no artificial hormones in their cows). Wanna take a guess what type of hormones you have to give a cow to produce extra milk? Estrogens, the same hormone that helps women lactate. Do you think any of those cows fed tons of estrogen hormones, far beyond normal levels, might pass some of that on through their milk?
  • Exercise should mimic life. Not many of us need to walk or jog dozens of miles a week, but almost everybody uses some basic muscle functions to do their daily activities. Strength, endurance, mobility and balance are all important parts of a well-rounded, functional body.

What I Wasn't Crazy About

  • He proposes an end to vaccines given to children, saying that they are the primary cause of the rise of allergies. This is possible, but unproven, and there could be dozens or hundreds of other environmental factors in the increase of people with severe allergies. I have a pretty bad peanut allergy, as does my daughter. We'll still take that over diptheria or pertussis.
  • Sometimes it felt like he was saying that technology is our real problem, while providing no alternatives or suggestions. So maybe computers, air travel and electricity all wreak havoc on the human body. Whether or not it's true, that's not a particularly useful statement to me unless I'm planning on joining an Amish fellowship.
  • The last 50 pages of the book are long lists of businesses that provide foods, supplements, natural clothing, soaps, etc... It felt much more like paid-for advertising than a helpful reference.
  • His half-dozen or so "real-life stories" of people whose lives were changed by The Maker's Diet felt pretty forced, and they weren't really corroborated in any way. Real names weren't used and no other witnesses were cited, so I have no idea if the stories are genuine or not.

Overall it was a useful book, although people who aren't bible fans will be put off very quickly by the author's reasoning (using Leviticus as a guide for 21st century life).

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tidbits from Houston

Here's the latest:

Health front

Jack's fever was 104.7 tonight. He's been fighting cold/congestion symptoms for more than two weeks, and had some low-grade fever to go with it, but nothing this high. The doctor gave us yet another antibiotic prescription and Jack is sleeping now (9:30 pm). I swear, this boy has had more medicine in 19 months than some people have in a lifetime. I'm just glad we live in a time and place where this type of care is available.

Our fitness plan continues to go well. Jamie didn't get her workout in today due to taking care of the human inferno, but life happens and the past year or two has taught us how to take these things better in stride. She still cooked a delicious and healthy dinner, and made enough to give a full meal to a family at our church who just had their third baby.

Sleep front

At 5:30 a.m. today a super-loud alarm started blaring in our house. In three years here, we'd never heard that sound before. We have an alarm system that goes off if a door or window is opened... but it wasn't that alarm. We have smoke detectors that go off sometimes... it wasn't that sound either. This was far louder and more obnoxious, more of a wailing than a "beep".

So there we are in the hallway outside the kids' bedroom, with Jamie waving a pillow at the alarm box (in case it was a smoke detector) and me scratching my head incredulously (that word's for you, Lost Dog). Samantha pokes her head out of her room to ask what's going on, and Jamie tells her it's okay and we'll make the noise stop. Jack sleeps right through it -- I don't know how. I've been to two Metallica concerts, and they weren't as loud as this alarm.

I finally decide to just tear the cover off the alarm box and remove the batteries, if there are any. It's clear that the house isn't on fire and we're not in a dire CO2 situation or anything. The cover wont' come off... it's screwed on. Jamie goes downstairs to get the screwdriver and notices that the alarm panel is lit up. She enters our passcode and the noise stops.

Turns out the issue was our phone line -- it's been having issues lately and finally came totally disconnected at 5:30 a.m. Unfortunately the alarm system is connected to the phone line, so I guess this was our alert that we were "off the grid" for the security company. At least now I know that if a burglar ever cuts our phone line in an attempt to disable the alarm, all he'll end up doing is setting off an even louder alarm.

We obviously weren't going back to sleep after that episode, so we just started the day 30 minutes earlier than normal.

Off the front end

Saw several interesting drivers on the roads today:

  1. A man in a Chevy Malibu somehow turned right in front of me while simultaneously talking on the cell phone and picking his nose. I'm still not sure how he did it.
  2. A woman cut me off as well, driving a huge SUV with three kids and a dog inside. And she was on the cell phone and messing with her lipstick.
  3. A woman was just sitting at a blinking red light on a four-lane, low-traffic road. I saw her stopped at the light about a quarter-mile ahead of me, and she was still there as I pulled up next to her. She was still there as I pulled away. She finally hit the gas a few seconds later. Maybe she never quite learned the whole "blinking red light" rule, so she was paralyzed by confusion. Did I mention she was also on a cell phone? (Note: I did look over at her to make sure she was OK... she was fine. Just stumped.)

Apparently most people in Houston have far better things to do with their time and brain than drive vehicles. I'm cool with that, but please don't do all those things while you're driving a vehicle.

Verbal fencing front

Tonight's conversation with Samantha:

Samantha: Daddy, what do you want to be when you grow up again?

Me: You mean like another job? Hmmm, I don't know. What do you think?

Samantha: You could be a doctor, or a firefighter or a teacher. Daddy, do you know how to start a fire?

Me: Yes I do.

Samantha: Good, you could be a firefighter then, if you wanted to. (Lowers head and whispers)...Do you know what I want to be?

Me: What?

Samantha: A window washer!

Upfront about the future

I've been trying to post regularly on Mondays and Thursdays and it seems to be working pretty well, so for now that's the plan on blog updates. Next week I'm planning on writing some short reviews of the two books I recently finished (The Maker's Diet and American Theocracy), but something else might take precedence. Hopefully I won't be writing about re-visiting Texas Children's Hospital with a feverish son. :)

Image Hosted by

Monday, January 22, 2007

Rising phoenix church

See this link for a fascinating story of a church that was on a long, slow decline and decided to give their building and property away to another church that was thriving.

Jamie and I have both been members at churches just like Midfield in the story -- once healthy and growing communities that eventually crumble for various reasons. It sounds like Midfield mostly had some economic issues (leaning on the steel industry) that likely impacted the entire community, including the church. That doesn't explain why the New Beginnings church was still strong, though.

Now Jamie and I are part of a church that was actually formed in a merger. Sounds kinda crazy after decades of church splits across all denominations, but it's amazing how much the context of a church's origin can shape the entire nature of the place and people. Ten years ago two congregations in Houston decided that there was a new, growing community in the Southwest part of the city that could benefit from having a local church. The two congregations sold and pooled everything -- property, buildings, furniture, savings accounts, and of course the members. Fast-forward to the year 2006, and we walk into the church and immediately sense that something was different there. It was founded on the amazing concept of coming together and serving the community, and doing it with common sense and compassion. That legacy remains today and we are loving it.

I'm still laughing about what my Aunt Lisa said last summer when she heard about our church's unique history. She shook her head and said, "It's amazing what's possible when people just act like human beings."

It is a lofty and noble part of the human spirit to see yourself as smaller than other purposes at work in the world. The people at Midfield Baptist church understood that. Hopefully I can keep it in mind too.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Fitness and nutrition anecdotes

Here's a glimpse into our physical milestones this week:

  • Jamie and I have launched full-bore into a nutrition/fitness plan. The book is called "The Metabolism Advantage" by Dr. John Berardi, a guy whom I've come to know and respect over the past few years. The premise of the book is that even though the old adage says our metabolism slows down a lot as we get older, science has proven this just isn't true. Our metabolism slows down because we're not as active as we were in the younger years. The nutrition and exercise plans in the book are very specific and fit our goals, so we're going for it. It's a dedicated eight-week plan with long-term principles to follow, and we're through the first four days. I have not cheated on the food one time yet, even though he builds in a 10% allowance for cheat meals.
  • We bought and ate more vegetables this week than either of us ever had before. My body was already heading this direction anyway, which was interesting. A few weeks ago we ordered pizza on a Friday night, and I cooked up some broccoli to eat with the pizza. Just for me. That never would have happened until recently, and it feels good.
  • Jamie got a huge compliment in the gym. She was doing some overhead squats, and a trainer asked her if she was a professional powerlifter, because her form was perfect and he never saw anyone doing that move these days.
  • The last two times I've been to the gym, I've gotten down on the floor to use the foam roller before my workout. Standard stuff -- been doing it for more than a year at the gym and at home. But the last two times, someone walking by has kicked me while I'm on the floor, I assume by accident. Neither person stopped, apologized or anything... they just kept walking like nothing happened. What's that about?
  • One effect of the clean eating was a digestive adjustment. Translation -- if a diet breaks a person, then I "broke like the wind". I was getting the kids out of the tub last night when bathtime was over, and I let a little, silent one squeak out while I was drying off Samantha. She looked at me very seriously under her towel hood, twitched her nose a couple of times, lowered her voice to a whisper, and said, "Daddy... was that you or me?" I'm trying to model honesty, so I confessed my flatulant ways.
  • Sidenote -- why don't our own farts gross us out, while everyone else's seem so nasty to us? I could see that if I told Samantha she was the culprit, she would've thought it was funny and ignored the smell. But when she heard I was to blame, she almost started gagging immediately. Weird. Sidenote over.
  • I had just finished my workout at the YMCA yesterday when Jamie and the kids showed up. I decided that instead of daycare/playtime during Jamie's workout, the kids would probably rather play basketball with me. They almost jumped through the ceiling when they heard it was "backetball" time with daddy (that's how Jack says it). At one point during our play, Samantha yelled out, "This is the best day ever!".
  • Jack likes to throw down the dunks when I lower the goals to 8 feet and hoist him over my head. The ball goes through the net, I put him down, he runs to get the ball (which is almost as big as him... he doesn't go for those mini-balls), then comes back and says, "Peez?" Who could say no to that?
  • They get almost equally excited when it's my turn to shoot and I make one. That isn't very often as I was never a great shot (my brother was always the accurate one). When I finally drain one, Jack points his fists to the floor, locks his arms, grits his teeth and yells, "Daddddyyyy!" I sense the next Bill Walton. Throw it down, big man!
  • The changes are already helping me at work. I'm more focused and effecient at the office, which was really needed right now. I've been having some trouble getting back on track after Thanksgiving/Julian/Las Vegas business trip/Christmas/Lasik surgery/New Year's.

If it seems like all we did this week was exercise or eat, that's about how it feels. It ain't easy cooking and eating six healthy meals a day, especially when you have two kids who just won't eat those things. So I guess if you add in their meals and snacks, that's ten or twelve different meals every day this week. We've been running the dishwasher with full loads every single day. Jamie also worked at the kids' school on Tuesday and Thursday, so she's had no time to herself to catch up on things.

It'll all be worth it, though, and we're excited about getting back on track with our health. I haven't had a piece of dark chocolate since last Wednesday, so you know we're serious about this. :)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Why ask why?

The cliche is true... toddlers really do ask "Why" about everything in the world. Samantha asks me at least 50 times every day, and most of the time the question doesn't even make any sense. I'm using this phase as an experiment to see which tactics work best on inquiring minds. Yes, I'm experimenting on my daughter. It's what parents do.

Here are the different approaches I've tried so far, with real examples from the past week or so.


Samantha: "Why does it get dark at night?"
Me: "Because the earth is a big ball and it spins, and the sun is going to the other side."
Samantha: "........"


Samantha: "Why does it cost money to buy kolaches?"
Me: "I'm glad you asked. The economy is based on two important principles -- value and trust. Value and monetary currency are essential for buying goods so we don't have to barter, while most businesses and many people keep most of their funds with banks and other groups, who in turn loan it out to others to make even more money. This trust given to the banks and investment firms keeps currency and goods flowing constantly through the system, allowing for millions of small transactions, like buying kolaches."
Samantha: "........"

Note: The cashier couldn't tell if I was just being a prick, or if my daughter was some super-genius who could actually understand my answer. I let him stir on it.


Samantha: "Why can't Jack talk very much?"
Me: "Boogity boogity. Boogity."
Samantha: "WHAT?"


Samantha: "Cool, Dad! Do you have a new shirt?"
Me: "No, these are my new skis. Do you like them?"
Samantha: "WHAT?! Those aren't skis!"

You just can't get anything past this girl. Maybe she is a super-genius after all.

Boomerang (my current favorite)

Samantha: "Why does Jack like blueberries so much?"
Me: "Why do you like Skittles so much?"
Samantha: "I don't know; I just do."
Me: "Well there ya go."

In conclusion, none of my attempts have proven very successful. Even the honest, direct answers are rewarded with the exact same question repeated again 10 minutes later. Maybe I can just give her a Magic 8 ball and let her ask questions to it all day long. Oh, right... she can't read. I'm screwed!

On a serious note, please keep my friends Rob and Terry in your thoughts and prayers. They've had a rough go of it and need a break. Many of you have seen me post about Rob before -- his blog is here so you can see what's up (and down) in his world.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

More from the office wall

I love giving people an excuse to drop by and chat. The two main weapons of choice are a candy bucket and funny jokes/quotes/stuff on my office wall. Here's the one I just removed:

Strange Facts

  • Marilyn Monroe had eleven toes
  • The microwave was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket
  • In 1987, pink frogs rained down on parts of England. Not once, but four times.
  • You are born with 300 bones, but by adulthood have only 206.
  • Arachibutryophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.
  • In Michigan it is illegal to chain an alligator to a fire hyrdrant.
  • Can openers weren't invented until 48 years after cans were invented.

One guy read my list and said, "Hey one of these is wrong. It says Ms. Monroe had eleven toes. Unless she was cremated, she still has eleven toes."

Got me there.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Driveway talk

My next door neighbor is a good guy that I've gotten to know gradually over the past few years. He may not initially look approachable since he's tall, heavily-bearded and drives 18-wheelers for a living and Harley Davidson motorcycles for fun. He's been through a lot, has tried the fast and hard lifestyle, and now has eventually settled into a mature type of contentment and peace with the world. We've talked quite a bit about religion and the bible over the past couple of years, building up a mutual respect.

This weekend we were both outside and he stopped me for a second to ask me a question. "Do you and your father-in-law go to the same church?", he asked. I answered that yes, we did.

He scratched his head and said, "Oh... I thought you guys didn't agree on some things, so I figured you wouldn't go to the same church. Did I remember right that you guys don't agree on some things?"

"Of course we don't", I answered. "I don't agree 100% with anybody. Nobody does. We're all different. I don't look for total agreement with my church."

This seemed to surprise him, and I felt an opening, so I took it:

"You know those pamplets that churches hand out, usually titled something like 'What We Believe'? I've never seen one I totally agree with, and I don't expect to. I keep changing my perspective on doctrinal issues all the time, and it's likely that I'm wrong about a whole lot of this stuff anyway. I go to church because it's a good community, we help people in need, and we help each other. And I like that my kids get exposure to new things, new people and some solid moral teaching."

He didn't say much else -- I think he was still shellshocked that I would go to church with people I don't agree 100% with. With over 340 Protestant denominations in the US alone, I don't know where he might've gotten the idea that I would leave a church on minor doctrinal grounds. :)

If I had thought faster, the one-word answer for looking past disagreements is "grace". Often this word is confused with mercy, but they're quite different. My favorite definitions are grace as "getting what you don't deserve", and mercy as "not getting what you had coming". It works better if you read that last part in the redneck style (Unhuh... he shore got beat up good... but he had it comin'). Mercy is the pardon for a condemned criminal -- grace is winning the lottery when you didn't even buy a ticket.

We all need a lot more grace.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Hands at 10 and 2

In a span of 10 minutes yesterday, four interesting things happened. Three of them happened in the car on the way to work:

  1. A blue coupe spun out on a six-lane merged highway two miles from my office. It was about 200 feet in front of me and two lanes over, right in front of an 18-wheeler. Somehow the guy spun back and forth across almost all lanes of traffic and avoided every other vehicle, finally slamming into the median and stopping. He didn't appear to be injured.
  2. I exit off the highway two minutes later and stop at a red light. There's a late-model white Lexus in front of me. The driver opens the door, leans out and hawks a nice loogie into the street. Nice. I've seen this before, and have written about it here.
  3. The light turns green, and we all go through the intersection. The white pickup truck in front of me proceeds to run into the curb. Twice. And he's not turning. Either he's drunk, inattentive, on the cell phone, or he's just a baaaad driver. This is when I consider just turning around and going home.
  4. I eventually reach the parking garage safely and walk to the office building. Twenty feet from the door, I suddenly get a shower of water on my head. Huh? It's not raining anywhere else... just on me. I look up and see window washers on the seventh floor, working their squeegees feverishly. The wind blows their soapy water off the windows, down 50 feet and right on top of my head.

In other car-related news, Jamie took the kids to her grandfather's house last week for one night. This means one night of totally free guy-time for me... what to do? Strange as it may sound, I took a drive.

Before the days of long commutes and bumper-to-bumper traffic, driving was a soothing activity for me. More on that in a minute.

When I left the garage on my night alone I wasn't sure what the destination was. Soon enough, though, I found myself near the last apartment we lived in, right around the time of Samantha's birth. I decided to go ahead and drive by there and think about how much has changed. Then I drove to the apartment before that, when we were DINKS (Dual-Income, No Kids). Then the office building of my last job. With no traffic on the road, I hit almost all my family's important Houston locations from the past eight years. And it only took an hour.

The most impactful part of the drive was the realizaton that I wouldn't trade places with any of those past times. I like where we are. I like who I am. I love my family of four. That's a good way to start the New Year.

Now for that story about driving as therapy...

I think I was about 20 years old, on Christmas break from college and back home in Kansas City. I decided to take a drive out to one the baseball fields I played on as a teenager, just to sit and listen to music. This was my version of a safe, relaxing and inexpensive outing.

After sitting in the empty parking lot facing the field for about fifteen minutes, I noticed another car pull into the parking lot. It was a police car. No lights or sirens, but he parked behind me and just sat there. I stayed in my seat and tried not to make any sudden movements.

A few minutes later a second police car pulled in next to the first one. That's when it hit me -- the first cop was calling for backup, and that's why he didn't get out of his car. With the second officer there, they both turned on their lights and got on the blowhorn, instructing me to exit the vehicle slowly with my hands in clear sight. Huh? I obviously complied.

They told me to put my hands on my trunk and they patted me down for weapons and drugs. By this point I started to get a little ticked off and asked exactly what was wrong with sitting in a public parking lot and listening to music. They answered that there had been some vandalism in the area, and when a homeowner saw my car in the parking lot she immediately called it in. The cops couldn't seem to believe that I was just there because it was my old field, and I was just listening to music. But it was the truth.

They told me to leave the area, and I just had to ask one more question. Probably stupid, but I was 20 years old and not exactly humble. So I asked, "Why do I have to leave? I'm not doing anything illegal, and it's a public park." One officer just looked at me and sneered. He was probably wondering if he could somehow shoot me and get away with it. He just said "Leave" again, so I did.

For some reason I haven't taken many 'therapeutic" drives since then.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Had an awesome holiday season with my family, mainly resting and having fun with a little bit of work in between. Here are some blurbs from the past few days:

Dr. Evil wants my la-zer

I had LASIK surgery done on December 28 and am loving it! The procedure itself was quite surreal, but the results have been great so far. I have a checkup tomorrow morning but my vision is at least 20/20 already, maybe even better, and it will only improve over the next few months. You can't imagine how big a lifestyle change this is, especially for a guy who wants to wrestle with his kids on a daily basis. Now there's no more worry about bending or breaking Daddy's glasses. Watch out kids... it's on!

And it's official: I'm as stubborn as my dad. My pre-surgery appointment on Dec. 27 included a dilation of my eyes. No problem. But they forgot to give me any shades on my way out, and it was a super-bright day outside with not a cloud in the sky. "Meh," I said, "I'll just head to the pharmacy to get my eyedrops, and pick up some cheap sunglasses while I'm there." Five minutes later I'm driving my car with both visors down, one hand over my eyebrows and tears streaming down my face from the sunlight. I then get to the pharmacy and they're out of the eyedrops I need. "I'm so sorry!", the pharmacist says, "It's a really common drop and we've never run out before!". Thanks, I'm feeling better already. They sure as heck aren't gettin' my sunglasses purchase. On to the next pharmacy, more than five miles away. More visors, more tears and pain, more blindness... but I made it. They had the drops, I bought the sunglasses and all was well. I won.

Long story, but it can be summed up in three words: I'm an idiot.

Blogging paralysis

Have you ever had such a daunting task ahead of you that you didn't know when or how to start? That's kinda how I am with the blog right now -- tons of ideas floating around in my head. Here's a sneak peak at some of the stuff I'm mulling over. Sooner or later I'll write about the following:

  • Book reviews -- The Maker's Diet and American Theocracy
  • Life lessons from the show Battlestar Galactica
  • What I learned from Moses
  • Suicide, guns, gangs, violence and teens... a ticket to hell? Or just hell on earth?
  • Jesus came to redeem the world... do I think he failed?
  • Gap analysis -- rich vs. poor, religious vs. secular, race vs. race. Are we getting better or worse?
  • Favorite movie quotes -- action and sci-fi films

It's gonna be a fun ride!

Parenting quotes

These were from the last days of my 2006 "Daily Dads" calendar at the office:

"No one knows the true worth of a man but his family. The dreary man drowsing, drop-jawed in the commuter train, the office bore, the taciturn associate -- may be the pivot of a family's life, welcomed with hugs, told the day's news, asked for advice. No longer Mr. B., but Dad. No longer a nonentity but a man possessed of skills and wisdom; courageous and capable, patient and kind. Respected and loved." -- Pam Brown

"Children are natural mimics, who act like their parents despite every effort to teach them good manners." -- Erma Bombeck

Stat of the week

Thousands of Americans have heart attacks each year while surrounded by strangers (in restaurants, at the movies, in the park, etc...). In these cases, less than 1 out of 3 receives CPR.

Shame on us.

Picture of the week

Image Hosted by