Barack Obama the Scholar on Obamacare


President Obama has done something quite unusual. He has just published an academic article in a well respected academic journal. It is widely reported that he is the first president to do this while in office. Obama’s publication appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association on July 11th, 2016.

This contribution, (focused on the motivations behind The Affordable Care Act (ACA) – also known as “Obamacare” – and its place in present and future of health policy) is considered a special communication “which requires prior inquiry before submission”. My understanding is that President Obama and the White House didn’t just decide to submit this, JAMA had to do some “inquiring” for a contribution. It is also not peer-reviewed in the sense that other experts in the field reviewed the paper prior to publication. However, it definitely has gone through fact-checks and rigorous revisions. Moreover, it is up for discussion criticism and  peer reviewed ex post facto.

I wanted to take a critical look at what our sitting President has to say about the lessons learned from arguably the biggest part of his legacy.

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Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America (2015) – Jill Leovy


Ghettoside by Jill Leovy

Ghettoside: a True Story of Murder in America

by Jill Leovy

Murder gets attention in a fragmented manner. True, it seemingly pervades our news cycle. However, that speaks more to many other things than murder itself. In her book, journalist Jill Leovy highlights the overlooked murder epidemic of young black men in South Los Angeles. She finds it a problem rooted in historical institutions, a problem with the criminal justice system, and one of the biggest race problems in America. In ways, criminal justice is unfair and overly oppressive towards minorities. As Leovy argues, we see where it doesn’t go far enough. We learn where it helps to create the environment where murder rates among black Americans remain as distant from any other group as ever.

Her book highlights the small stories that exist in the everyday world of black violence in Los Angeles. She focuses on one murder in particular – the murder of a black teen male and the son of a black homicide detective. Yet, she also shares stories of the forgotten black men, an enduring chronicle for those that would otherwise be forgotten. In so doing, she highlights the cultural and institutional issues at play. For those concerned about race issues and about homicide, this is an enlightening portrayal that I would definitely recommend. I found this to be a topical and educational book for the socially aware American in light of recent national attention being drawn specifically to police and race and #blacklivesmatter.

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“Too Divided”

too divided

Our nation has become too divided. Too many Americans feel like they’ve lost hope. Crime is harming too many citizens. Racial tensions have gotten worse, not better. This isn’t the American Dream we all want for our children.
Donald Trump’s statement after the Dallas shooting

Wimbledon wow


So, sorry for the poor image quality. That’s what happens when you quickly pull out your cellphone camera. I went to get an oil change today. In the waiting room I caught the tail end of the match between Sam Querrey and Novak Djokovic. It a huge upset in the 3rd round of Wimbledon! To put things in perspective this broke Novak’s streak of 30 wins in a row with 4 straight championships in the Grand Slam events (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open). It ends this record streak and Novak’s bid for the calendar grand slam (winning all 4 in one year). Moreover, it was also the first time since 2002 when an American beat the No. 1 ranked player in a Grand Slam.

There has been tons of unpredictability in sports recently. Who would have predicted the winners of the EPL, the NBA finals, the always unpredictable NHL playoffs, and the last world series winner, Ronda Rousey’s defeat? Sports betting may be lucrative, but I don’t see myself entering this recent climate. When it comes to the favorites in long events things even out, but in one match or game anything can happen.

I imagine the trend will continue. In the upcoming Olympics (about a month away!!!) where one event makes or breaks 4 years of hard work, I’ll be on the edge of my seat. As a sports fan those single moments are why I tune in. We are all human and are due to have “off” days. Novak had an “off” day. Yet, those moments can define his career.

The missed opportunity to cement yourself in history reminds me so much of Steph Curry and the Warriors this year. The unrealized possibilities are often forgotten in sports lore. For most sportsmen or sportswomen these moments are forgotten in the pursuit of future opportunities at greatness. It’s the what ifs that capture the imagination of all fans.

Literature About Medicine

literature and medicine

Sharing a Piece

Here’s a post from Andrew Solomon on literature about medicine. It includes some great recommendations on books related to medicine. You can find the piece in multiple places (here, and here). It includes some great insights about language and medicine. It’s quite a long piece. Perhaps it’s more useful as a reference list of books to read. Solomon provides commentary on for each book he mentions which isn’t as useful. Also, honestly, I felt he goes in too many directions in the later parts of the piece.

However, the introduction cannot be more true. He describes the “sticky communication” plaguing doctor-patient relationships. Moreover, it feels like an injustice that, “in fact, there is some evidence that people who can speak more fluently receive better medical care; patients deprived of language are often subject to abuse.” If you can’t handle the length or the disparate 2nd half of the piece maybe keep in mind the books mentioned. I think all these books are well regarded and worth the read.




What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (2014) – Randall Munroe

What If?
What If?

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions – Randall Munroe

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

by Randall Munroe

This really is a collection absurd and hypothetical questions. Also, the reader does get serious scientific answers, but answers that are far from rigorous and often times anything but serious. Given the nature of some of the questions, Munroe takes his own approach to providing an answer. Questions range from all areas of possible scientific inquiry, math, history, physics, chemistry, meteorology, biology, and so much more. As a former physics grad and NASA employee, there is a lean towards the inclusion of physics related questions and answers. In each answer, he often raises peripheral questions he’d rather answer or take a question to the extreme. Yet overall, its still a fun approach which makes for an enjoyable lighter read. At times I can see how readers may be frustrated with the answers, but in less than 10 pages there’s another interesting absurd question to dive into. Continue reading

Chess Postmortem #4: London System

I looked back at some of my recent games to decide on an instructive post. I learned a lot from two of my draws and couldn’t decide which to choose to blog about. I’ve decided to take a look at both these games in depth.

First up, is a game as black against the London system. I had seen my opponents recently featuring the London system as white pretty regularly. I had rarely faced it and didn’t have a good grasp of what to do as black. White typically plays the London to avoid sharp concrete lines meaning to set up quick and solid development. However, that means that black has a multitude of options. Black set ups can vary from the structures based on the Dutch, Kings Indian Defense, Queens Indian, Benoni, or various structures based on d5. I have typically met d4 with d5 and thus looked into a couple lines here (typically d5 with or without an early e6).

Here’s the game with my annotations.

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“Us” and “Them”


You can’t make up the world into ‘us’ and ‘them,’ and denigrate and express hatred towards groups because of the color of their skin, or their faith, or their sexual orientation, and not feed something very dangerous in this world.
President Obama. Full remarks can be found here.

Small Moments

An Unusual Occurrence at 6:50 AM

I drive the same route in the morning as most people do. When you do that the surroundings tend to blur. Often as I leave my neighborhood I see the same girl walking to her bus stop. She’s approximately 10-12 years old. Today, she was waiting on the sidewalk with her head buried in a book with a smile on her face. It didn’t look like a textbook either.

She was enjoying a novel.

In public these days people rarely look up or out, especially while waiting for something. I would guesstimate that 90% of the time you see someone looking down they are buried in some sort of mobile device. What does that say about modern culture (or my perception of modern culture)?

I don’t know why, but this short scene made an impression.

The scene seemed so anachronistic. It was as if this girl briefly made an appearance through a wrinkle in time from a distant past. Of course reading a book is still a regular occurrence and small moments like this occur all the time. However, in that particular moment I had a feeling of gain. I was able to gain a new perspective. I appreciated seeing a glimpse of someone avoiding the typical pressures of modern culture, if only for a moment in her life.

Here’s to everyday small moments of inspiration.

Fortune Smiles: Stories (2015) – Adam Johnson

fortune smiles

Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

Fortune Smiles: Stories

by Adam Johnson

This collection of short stories are raw and reverberant with tangible realism. They leave an impression on you. As a collection, they all are well written, intense, and at times disturbing. There is no obvious relationship among these 6 short stories, but together they form quite unique perspectives of disparate people struggling with tough circumstances. Personally, some stories worked and other didn’t. Johnson’s writing is top notch. He also does a great job capturing the nuances and complexities in the very real feelings in his characters. However, I find some stories don’t feel complete or satisfying. They each have well defined endings, but just not satisfying when taken as a whole.

Johnson captures the intangible very well. The essence of emotions in his characters and the essence of unique circumstances in various settings/cultures are bottled well. If only Johnson can use that essence to fill in a more structured and complete story. Perhaps, that’s the author’s point, but I would say this collection has piqued my interest to see someone else try to meet my high standards for short stories.

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