Show Jumping with Ludger Beerbaum

 Posted by on 31 August 2013 at 1:00 pm  Animals, Horses, Sports
Aug 312013

My trainer Martha lent me — and I recently watched — an instructional video with international show jumper Ludger Beerbaum instructing two classes of students, then riding two of the horses himself. The video was good, although he wasn’t the best teacher. Still, his riding is superb — and he’s only gotten better, as you can see from this fabulous video of him winning the Grand Prix Hermès in Paris in 2013.

The first round is just aiming to go clean (meaning, no refusals or rails down) in under the time allowed. The second round is the jump-off with other riders who did that, so that aim is to go clean in as little time as possible.

I’d give my eye teeth (and a whole lot more) to be able to ride so damn well.

Me Jumping Lila: Progress!

 Posted by on 31 August 2013 at 10:00 am  Animals, Horses, Personal, Sports
Aug 312013

Here’s a video compilation of me jumping Lila in last week’s lesson with Martha Deeds. We’re jumping a bending line, which is more difficult than an ordinary (straight) line. Basically, I have to get busy immediately after the first fence to get a proper approach to the second fence.

I made quite a few mistakes in these jumps. Happily, I was pretty darn pleased with the last sequence. Still, even then, I made small versions of the errors that have been plaguing me:

(1) I lean over in the stride before the fence, rather than keeping a very, very upright posture. When I do that, I’m letting Lila drop on her forehand — such that she’s heading downhill — just before the fence. That screws up the jump in various ways, particularly if the striding doesn’t happen to be just right. This tendency to lean forward and drop Lila has been a major problem and frustration of mine for some time. Happily, in that last sequence, I only leaned forward a wee bit, which was progress compared to the earlier jumps.

Plus, the fence with the poles is an extra challenge for me, as I’m even more likely to drop Lila over such fences. (I get nervous, so I learn forward and release her head. It’s exactly the wrong thing to do!) So I’m particularly delighted to have gotten that mostly right a few times.

(2) I hunch my shoulders a bit on landing. That means that I’m not able to recover so quickly as I need to do for the second fence. I need to keep a flatter back, so that I can land ready for the next fence. I’m getting better at that, but my goal is to eliminate that hunch entirely.

Despite those problems, the news is good: I’m making progress! For example, I’m doing much better at looking up rather than down at the fence lately. Also, I love the collected canter that Martha had me ride into these fences.

Lila and I have come so far in the last year. I’m eager to see how far we can get in our next year!

Trolley Problem: What Would You Do?

 Posted by on 30 August 2013 at 3:35 pm  Academia, Ethics, Philosophy
Aug 302013

On Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I’ll answer a question on whether the “trolley problem” so often discussed by academic philosophers has any value. The basic scenario of the trolley problem is:

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. Unfortunately, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options: (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. (2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. Which is the correct choice?

So what would you do? Here’s a super-quick poll, the answers to which I’ll use in Sunday’s discussion:

Then explain your reasons for your choice in the comments!


 Posted by on 30 August 2013 at 1:00 pm  Link-O-Rama
Aug 302013

  • IFTTT (If This Then That): This looks to be a pretty awesome tool!
  • EVA 23: exploring the frontier: Being blinded and drowning, while on a spacewalk is very, very scary.
  • 24 Photos You Need To Really Look At To Understand: Some of these are really hard to see for what they are.
  • MAPS: A Poll Asked America Which States Were The Drunkest, The Hottest And Which Had The Silliest Accents: I love that California wins first place in a number of categories, including “most overrated.” Heh.
  • Samsung ad featuring possibly the world’s worst actors: OMG, this ad is a wonder to behold. Perfectly made-up and perfectly speaking actors pretend to be ordinary computer users, with the worst script and acting ever. The best part is that the perfect woman is dumber than a box of rocks. Oh, and that shirt makes me think that she’s never so much as thought about sex. Truly, truly funny.
  • It’s Happened: “Chinese person with a random English word as a tattoo.” Hey, at least it’s not “butt-monkey” or something!
  • How High Can You Step?: “A simple test checks your leg muscle function.” This is pretty nifty, although it’s hard not to push off with your leg on the floor!
  • Blurred Lines: Jimmy Fallon, Robin Thicke, and The Roots sing “Blurred Lines” using classroom instruments. It’s a version worth watching… and the guy on the right is really rockin’ that banana!
  • Student Converts School Bus into Mobile Home and Drives Around Country: “For his final project, graduate architecture student Hank Butitta bought an old school bus on Craigslist for $3,000. 15 weeks and $6,000 of improvements later, Hank and his two friends were ready to embark on a 5,000 mile (8,046 km) journey across the United States. The 225 sq. ft mobile home features reclaimed gym flooring and dimmable LED lighting. Using the 28 inch wide windows as a modular guide (the aisle is also 28 in. wide), the bus is divided into four primary zones: bathroom, kitchen, seating, and sleeping. The space can be configured in a variety of combinations, depending on need.” Awesome!
  • Employment Application Of The Day: “I have caught you red-handed”! BWHAHAHA!

19 Years of Paul Hsieh

 Posted by on 29 August 2013 at 2:00 pm  Personal
Aug 292013

I met Paul Hsieh on this day in 1994 — so 19 years ago! I remember my clothes, the dinner, his fancy car…. and his uber-dorky coke-bottle glasses.

As many of you know, we were friends for many years, I asked him out in late 1998, and we were married six months and three days later, on May 9th, 1999. Thankfully, by the time I married him, his glasses were significantly less dorky.


Forbes has published my latest piece, “How Much Will Your Life Be Worth Under Obamacare?

Here is the opening:

How much will your life be worth to the federal government under ObamaCare? Less than you might think. We can make an educated guess by looking at which medical screening tests the government U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) considers worthwhile…

I also discuss problems with one-size-fits-all government medical recommendation, and how President Obama and his doctor knowingly violated guidelines set by his own federal task force.

(For more details, read the full text of “How Much Will Your Life Be Worth Under Obamacare?“)

Aug 292013

On Wednesday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I interviewed mom-of-twins Cheryl Hein about “Parenting a Child with Disabilities.” The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

Remember, you can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:

Podcast: 28 August 2013

What are some of the rewards and challenges of parenting a child with disabilities? How should parents navigate family dynamics, education, and social interactions? How can parents do right by their disabled child, as well as themselves and other family members?

Cheryl Hein is the mother of nineteen year old boy-girl twins, one of whom, her daughter, was born with developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome and autism. In choosing the approaches for educating their twins, Ms. Hein and her husband considered a number of key values, such as effective education, opportunities for intellectual and social enrichment, family dynamics, and, as they got older, their kids’ preferences; practical considerations such as cost and logistics were also weighed. Ms. Hein became heavily involved in understanding and navigating public school special education services and other available private and government programs for educating her children, and in advocating for the choices she believed were right for them. As she has lived with the daily and long range parenting challenges, she has also thought deeply about matters of family, private and government support for the education, care and keeping of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Ms. Hein received a B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and an M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from UCLA. She has managed multi-million dollar R&D programs for private industry, state and federal governments for more than 30 years, in settings as broad as manufacturing, product development, private research laboratories and university research organizations. Most recently, as managing director of the UCLA Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology (CASIT) and in private entrepreneurial efforts, she has focused on fostering advances in technologies for education and training based on combining findings from the science of learning with interactive computer technologies such as simulation and games to create learning systems that align effectively with how our brains work.

Listen or Download:


  • About her daughter’s developmental disabilities
  • More about apraxia of speech
  • The pregnancy
  • Heart surgery as an infant
  • Prior experience with Downs Syndrome
  • Response to the heart surgery
  • The diagnoses of apraxia of speech and autism
  • Early education via UCLA
  • Lessons learned from UCLA
  • Preschool: keeping the kids together
  • The sibling relationship
  • Elementary school: full inclusion
  • Speech development and reading
  • Her effect on other kids in the classroom
  • Middle school and beyond: segregated special education classes
  • A better education: private schools, homeschooling, and Montessori
  • Improvements in education, medicine, and home life for developmentally disabled kids
  • The dangers of reducing the person to the disability
  • Grief for the child, love for the child
  • Plans for the future, after school ends
  • Advice for parents of disabled children

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Guest Blog Post on Social Justice? Maybe Not

 Posted by on 28 August 2013 at 2:00 pm  Funny
Aug 282013

From my inbox yesterday afternoon:

Grumpy Cat, you took the words right out of my mouth!

John McCaskey’s New Blog

 Posted by on 28 August 2013 at 10:00 am  Ethics, Law, Politics
Aug 282013

The super-awesome — and always thoughtful and interesting — John McCaskey has a blog! His first post is on whether a person can ever benefit from being forced to act well. It begins:

It is wrong to force your decision on others, even if you think doing so would be good for them. As long as they extend the same freedom to others, people should be left to choose their own mate, pursue their own career, buy and sell what they want, etc. They should be left to think and act for themselves without someone else forcing them.

But, then, how are we to think about the following?

  • Taking the car keys from someone who has been drinking alcohol.
  • Saving someone from being hit by an unseen car.
  • Making medical decisions for a deliriously sick relative.

These all involve forcing your decision on someone.

Go read the whole thing!

Aug 272013

Crazy! On August 7th, I interviewed Tom Varik on the complications in the law on gay marriage and spousal privilege… And now it’s in the news! In a capital murder case! How’s that for timely!

Gay couple seeks spousal privilege protection in Kentucky murder trial:

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) – A legal debate over whether one member of a same-sex couple has spousal privilege that would shield her from testifying against her partner is at the heart of a capital murder case in politically conservative Kentucky.

Geneva Case, 49, does not want to testify in a Louisville court against her partner, Bobbie Jo Clary, 37, who is accused of beating George Murphy, 64, to death with a hammer in 2011 and then stealing his van. Prosecutors say Case must testify because of her value as a witness, since she heard Clary admit to the slaying and also saw blood on the interior of the victim’s van after the killing.

Clary says Murphy used a hammer to sexually assault her, and she defended herself by hitting him over the head. Clary is also charged with tampering with evidence to cover up the crime. If convicted, Clary could face the death penalty.

Under Kentucky law, a person cannot be called to testify against his or her spouse. Most states have a similar type of law. But Kentucky is not among the 13 states that have legalized gay marriage. In 2004, it amended the state constitution to define marriage as being a union between a man and a woman.

Susan Sommer, an attorney for Lambda Legal, a national legal organization for the protection of gay rights, said she was not familiar with the details of the Kentucky case, but Lambda believes gay couples should have the same legal protections as other married people.

“Spousal privilege is one part of the tremendous bundle of protections for a committed couple that come automatically with marriage,” Sommer said.

Case and Clary were joined in a civil union in 2004 in Vermont. Vermont first allowed civil unions in 2000, but did not legalize same-sex marriage until 2009.

“Kentucky’s marital privilege law does not give Ms. Case the right not to testify in a murder trial,” said Stacy Greive, assistant commonwealth attorney for Jefferson County. “And the reason marital privilege does not apply to Ms. Case in her relationship with the defendant is because it is our opinion and our belief that they do not have a marriage that is recognized under Kentucky law.”

Greive argues that not only is the union not recognized in Kentucky, but the couple has not presented proof they have a valid marriage under Vermont law. “They have a civil union, if you look at Vermont’s statutes, they distinguish between civil unions and marriage,” she said.

The article has more details. If you’ve not heard my interview with Tom Varik on “Gay Marriage and Spousal Privilege,” take a listen!

For more details, check out the episode’s archive page.

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