What’s in a name? – Explaining Corban

Last week we were thrilled to welcome Corban Yaroslav Thurman to our family. Here’s an explanation of his names:

Corban

Corban comes from The Bible, in Mark 7:11, where it denotes a gift or offering consecrated to God.

It took us a long time to come up with a name that we both liked. Marcia even went through a whole book of baby names, crossing out the ones that didn’t excite her. When she was done, there were 27 left (Corban was not on that list, by the way).

In our family, we read a chapter of scripture every night. We decided years ago that we were going to read all of the scriptures of our church, one at a time, in a random order. That’s 1581 chapters (yes, that’s a long project). Marcia wrote the names of each chapter (“Genesis 1,” “Alma 32,” etc…) on little slips of paper, and put them in a jar. Each night we selected a random one and read that chapter.

On February 28, 2016, we were down to the final chapter of the project: Mark 7. After we read verse 11, Marcia asked “What do you think of the name “Corban?” And thus he was named.

A note on pronunciation: We’re aware that the Sephardi Hebrew pronunciation often used by Christian scholars when reading Hebrew words in The Bible puts the accent on the last syllable: kawrbahn. This is not fully agreed upon, however. Ashkanizi Hebrew favored by some Jewish practices, and common English usage as well, put the accent on the first syllable: kawrbahn. We like the sound of the first syllable accent better, so that’s how we pronounce his name.

Yaroslav

Jacob spent about 2 years in Russia as a missionary. He lived and did missionary work in the Russian and Belarussian cities of Khimki, Moscow, Minsk, and finally, Yaroslavl.

Yaroslavl was founded in 1010 by a Russian prince named “Yaroslav the Wise.” Legend has it that Yaroslav killed a bear with a spear on the shore of the Volga river, and founded the city on that site.

Marcia was exploring some of her family history a few months ago, and discovered that the same “Yaroslav the Wise” is one of her ancestors. In fact, he’s TWO of her ancestors. On her mother’s side, Yaroslav the Wise is her 49th great grandfather. On her father’s side, Yaroslav the Wise is her 28th great grandfather (yes, that makes her parents 28th cousins 21 times removed).

Yaroslav was actually chosen as Corban’s middle name a long time before his first name was chosen. We like that it’s a family name for Marcia, and a personal connection for Jacob.

Thurman

Thurman is an English name derived from an old Norse name composed of “Thor” (Norse God of Thunder) and “Mundr” (Protection). We did not choose this name for Corban, he just got lucky.

Book Review: The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande

One of my personal goals for 2014 is to read a new book every couple of weeks. This is the second book I’ve read this year. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande.

Why did I read this?

I read this because I first read Atul Gawande’s article The New Yorker, titled simply The Checklist. The article was surprisingly captivating, so when I found out that Gawande had expanded the article into a full book, I had to read it.

Summary

The Checklist Manifesto is subtitled “How to get things right,” which is  a good summation of the book all by itself. It examines scenarios that are prone to human error, even when those humans are experts at the top of their fields, and how the simple use of a checklist can greatly reduce the error in those situations.

Drawing on examples from aviation, construction, medicine (the author is a surgeon “in real life”), investment banking, and other fields, Gawande shows how checklists have been used to eliminate error.

He describes being recruited by the World Health Organization (WHO) to come up with a plan to improve surgical outcomes worldwide. They decide to experiment with a checklist, asking surgeons in some hospitals to use a pre-surgery checklist in their operating rooms. After Dr. Gawande tries using the checklist himself in his own practice, he finds it cumbersome, confusing, and impractical. He takes a trip to Seattle, where he visits with Daniel Boorman, a Boeing technical fellow, who is responsible for the creation of checklists used by pilots flying Boeing’s airliners.

(Checklists as a tool for professional discipline were born from aviation, even from Boeing: In 1935, a pilot demonstrating Boeing’s newly designed bomber to the Army Air Corps crashed on takeoff, killing himself and two others. He crashed because he had forgotten to release a lock on the airplane’s elevator and rudder controls. The airplane was dismissed as “too much plane for one man to fly,” and the military nearly ended the project. Test pilots, however, thought the airplane was marvelous, and worked together to solve the “too much plane” problem. Their solution was to create a simple set of checklists: One for before takeoff, one for flight, one for approach, and one for landing. With checklists in hand, the test pilots then flew the airplane more than 1.8 Million miles without a single accident. The army ordered 13,000 airplanes, and dubbed it the B-17, now one of the most celebrated bombers in military aviation history.)

Boorman teaches Gawande some of the important things Boeing has learned about checklists: They should use natural breaks in the workflow. They should be relatively short (5-9 items). They should be printed in black & white in a sans-serif font….And more. Boorman then takes Gawande into a hyper-realistic flight simulator, helps him taxi the airplane to a runway and take off, all using the same checklists that pilots use. Then, as their flight ascends through 20,000 feet, a warning light comes on in the cockpit. Gawande’s airplane has a door that appears to not be latched properly. This situation can be deadly (In 1989, this exact situation led to an “explosive decompression” of a United Airlines 747, killing 9 passengers). Gawande, remembering his few minutes of pre-flight training, grabs an emergency procedures book, turns quickly to the checklist for the DOOR FWD CARGO warning light, and follows it. Their simulation flight is able to land safely.

(As an aside, I’m totally jealous that Gawande got to “fly” a full motion 777 simulator. I would LOVE to do that.)

Gawande takes his newfound understanding back to the WHO, where they redesign their surgical checklists following Boeing’s principles, and run a test in 8 hospitals around the world. The results are astounding. They achieve double-digit percentage reductions in complications, infections, and other scary surgical by-products, including death. By his calculations, during the three-month trial in 8 hospitals, the checklists prevented 27 unnecessary deaths.

In the end, Gawande describes an incident in his own operating room where, by his own description, he tore a patient’s vena cava (the largest vein in your body, which bring blood from most of your lower half to your heart). The bleeding was, in Dr. Gawande’s own words, “terrifying.” In seconds, he had opened the patient’s abdomen and chest completely, and was holding his heart in his hands, pumping blood through it while another doctor put pressure on the torn vein. The patient was losing blood a rate measurable in gallons.

One of the items on the surgeon’s pre-incision checklist is to discuss with the operating room team the possible blood loss in the operation. Then, the head nurse calls and confirms that the hospital’s blood bank has enough blood ready to use to cover the worst case scenario (the blood bank is supposed to do this already, without the nurse having to make the call). Gawande’s team had followed the checklist. When the nurse called the blood bank, it was discovered that the blood for this operation was not ready, so the operation was held up a few minutes while the blood bank prepared.

Now, Gawande has the patient’s heart in his hands, and can feel it emptying out like a deflating balloon, and in seconds, the blood from the blood bank is being transfused into the patient. The blood that wouldn’t have been ready to use if the team hadn’t followed its checklist.

By the time the vein is repaired and the patient’s heart is beating on its  own again, 30 “units” of blood have been transfused (keep this in mind: an adult body holds about 10 units: This patient bled 3 times his own blood volume). The patient lived, and while there were some side effects of the incident, recovered. Dr. Gawande is 100% certain that without the checklist, the patient would have died on the operating table while they waited precious minutes for the blood bank.

What did I think?

It’s hard to imagine a subject duller than checklists. Yet Gawande is a good writer, and fills the book with powerful narratives. Whether recounting incredible medical recoveries, telling what happened in the cockpit of USAir 1493 as it crash-landed in the Hudson river, or describing the qualities of a well-written checklist, his writing is engaging.

As for the book’s subtitle “How to get things right,” we’re given a few insights into how to get things right in our own worlds, like the difference between simple, complicated, and complex tasks, and how checklists can (and can’t) help with each (For example, there will be no checklist for raising a child, but there can be one for making sure a child has good nutrition), but I would have liked a little more of the “how to” material.

Ultimately, I was surprised that I found The Checklist Manifesto hard to put down, and when I turned the last page, I wanted to read more.

Would I recommend it?

Here’s the test: Go read The Checklist. If you enjoy it, you’ll like The Checklist Manifesto. I did.

Book Review: The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg

One of my personal goals for 2014 is to read a new book every couple of weeks. I started the year off with Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.

The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

Why did I read this?

I first became interesting in this book after hearing two interviews with the author. The first from NPR, and the second from Ramit Sethi. I think psychology is interesting, even more if I can use an understanding of that psychology to help reach my goals, or help others reach theirs.

What did I think?

The Power of Habit is easy reading. It is largely anecdotal, sharing its message in narrative form. When the book tells of someone who acquired, broke, or changed a habit, it tells their story. When it talks of the psychology/neurology behind the habit, it tells the story of how the science was conducted and the conclusions discovered. When it speaks of powerful organizational and social change that can happen because of habits, it tells stories of companies, churches, and nations who have done exactly that. Some of the stories include:

  • How a woman gave up smoking and drinking in one day
  • How another woman slowly acquired a multi-million dollar gambling addiction over the course of years, encouraged by a casino that understood the psychology of her habits far better than she did
  • How an alcoholic learned about the principles of habit formation and used them to start the largest organization dedicated to positive personal change in the world
  • How Alcoa aluminum multiplied its profits 5x by focusing on an organizational habit that had nothing to do with sales, margins, shareholder value, or even profit
  • How Michael Phelps set a world record in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2008 Olympics despite an “equipment malfunction” which left him blind for most of the race
  • How the habits of individuals and groups contributed to the Montgomery bus boycott, and ultimately the civil rights movement of the 1960s
  • How Target knows what products to advertise to you before you even know you want them
  • …And a lot more

In my opinion, the book started strong, and then lost momentum towards the end. I think, though, that it’s because the ideas of personal habit formation and change strike close to home for me – they are things I can do. I don’t run a large organization or have any major social cause to champion, so the sections on organizational and social habits were a little less interesting (though I did find Alcoa’s story, and Target’s, to be absolutely fascinating). The book concludes with an appendix that teaches an actionable system for habit change, and walks through how the author discovered, diagnosed, analyzed, and changed an afternoon snacking habit that was causing him to gain weight.

Would I recommend it?

If you’re interested in psychology, behavior, and things like that, then YES, I would absolutely recommend it. Also, if you’re a parent, or you run an organization like a business or church, you and your family/organization could gain a lot from you reading this book.

tl;dr

The Power of Habit explores how habits work, how we can change them, and how we can use them to our advantage. If you want to change something about any aspect of your life, you should read it.

The Nativity, According to a 3-Year-Old

For Family Home Evening last night, we talked about Christmas and the birth of Jesus. We (mostly the three-year-old) made a nativity from a sticker kit that she had gotten in nursery at church. Here’s the result:

FunnyNativity2013

A few of my favorite points:

  • Flying sheep
  • The manger is upside-down “to keep the baby warm under it”
  • Two cows riding a camel
  • One angel is flying, and the other is laying down on the roof

And last, but not least, according to the 3-year-old…

  • Baby Jesus is breastfeeding

Merry Christmas!

Gratitude, and a bit of nostalgia

Today is the national marching band championship in Indianapolis.

On this day, I’m especially grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve had to participate with marching bands and drum corps over the last 18 years, first as a performer, and then as a teacher.

I’m grateful to have been a member of the marching band at my high school, and for all that I learned from Dennis Smith, Todd Foster, and others.

I’m grateful to have been a member of the Colts Drum & Bugle Corps, where I learned not only about performance and music, but about success in life, thanks to Greg Orwoll and the rest of the Colts family.

DCI Finals, 1998
(DCI Finals, 1998)

I’m grateful to have been able to teach the front ensemble at my alma mater, and to work with Mr. Smith, Todd Foster, Michelle Sapadin and many others, and to have helped win the first percussion caption award in school history in 1999.

I’m grateful to have quite randomly ended up in Macomb, where I’ve been able to teach the front ensemble and then the full drumline of a great marching band for the last 11 years, with great competitive success. I’ve worked with great teachers like Mr. Wetmore, Mr. Zahnle, Mr. Howard, and Mr. Mattsey. I’ve had great help from former students like Leandro Pelayo, Xavier Zahnle, Allyson Ray, Michelle Kenny, Kelsey Drea, Dan Reem, and Chris Norton.

I’m grateful for all of the students I’ve had over the years, from the seniors at Red Mountain in 1998, to the freshmen at Macomb in 2013. I hope you learn as much from me as I do from you. You are all truly awesome.

Finally, I am grateful for all that I’ve learned and experienced through marching band and drum corps. I truly believe in the Colts mission statement, that “we use music and excellence to teach each other about success in life.” Any success I’ve achieved in life, I owe at least in part to my experience with marching band and drum corps. To all of my friends, teachers, students, and colleagues, I thank you.

…and here’s hoping for many more great years, great teachers, great students, and great friends.

Oh Deer, What an Adventure!

Glad to be home safe tonight. Story time….

Went to Galesburg to do some shopping, and on the way home, a few miles from Monmouth, IL, we were discussing the safest way to pull to the side of the road, and the safest way to treat vehicles that were pulled over.

As we came around a corner, we saw a vehicle that was pulled over with hazards on. As appropriate, I signaled and pulled into the other lane.

And then, in a split second, we saw the reason that car was pulled over.

But it was too late. We hit the freshly dead deer carcass full on at 65 MPH. There was a very jarring THUMP, a fraction of a second of sideslip, and then the terrible sounds of a damaged exhaust system and who-knows-how-much body damage.

We pulled over right away, and after calming down (and making a few phone calls), called the highway patrol. An officer was already talking to the people who had originally hit the deer, and called in a tow truck. After taking care of them, the officer and tow truck driver came over to us and together we all took a good look at the damage. Front fender is destroyed, definitely a damaged exhaust system (the car now sounds like my old Honda when the muffler fell off), parts of the splash guard dragging on the ground, and A LOT of blood and deer guts on the underside of my car.

BUT, there were no leaking fluids, no damage to lights, no engine warning lights to indicate real engine damage, so the police officer and tow truck driver both agreed that we should go ahead and try to drive it home.

The tow truck driver was headed the same direction we were, so he said he would follow us for a few miles until his turn, so he could pick us up if anything more happened.

Long story short… we made it home with a functional, but noisy, car, which is going to need some TLC tomorrow.

Most importantly, of course, we are all fine. A little rattled, but nobody got hurt (except the deer), and we’re all home safe and sound.

How I voted, and why

For the first time in my life, I voted straight down the Democrat line. I voted Obama, I voted Waterworth, I voted Sullivan, and in Illinois State Representative District 93, where no Democrat was running, I did not vote for Republican Norine Hammond.

First, I want to make something clear: There are Republican Candidates that I like. I like Bobby Schilling’s attitude that congressmen shouldn’t get special treatment when it comes to pension plans. I like Randy Frese’s position on transparency and term limits.

The big elephant in the room, of course, is Mitt Romney. I like Mitt Romney. I don’t think he would be a terrible president. I think he’s an experienced and capable leader. I think he’s honest, if wavering, and of course I appreciate his faith (we do share a religious belief).

But in the end, my decision not to vote for these men comes down to their party affiliation, and here’s why:

First, the last few years have seen incredible Republican Obstructionism. Mitch McConell, the Senate Minority Leader, summed it up when he said “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” That’s just astounding! His single biggest priority is not keeping America safe from terrorists, or helping to revive a struggling economy, or improving American education to make our children more competitive in the world marketplace. No, his single priority is to shut down anything and everything that might make Obama look good.

And the Republicans have followed suit. They have refused to compromise. The have refused to negotiate. In fact, many economists and professional political pundits now blame the lackluster economic growth of the last few years not on poor policy from the executive branch, but on willful, intentional opposition to measures (including some that they supported until the President did also) that would help the economy by a Republican party whose top priority is simply to not let Obama have his way.

So, my conclusion is this: To vote for a Republican is to reward and encourage this tantrum-throwing behavior, and I refuse to do so.

Second, for some reason, the abortion issue has reared its head more than usual in this election season.

Now on this topic, first thing’s first: I believe that abortion for the sake of convenience is wrong. I believe it is immoral and frankly, a sin in the sight of God. However, I believe that in cases of rape, incest, or when continuing a pregnancy is likely to result in the death of the mother, abortion is an acceptable choice, with that decision to be made by the parent(s) in conjunction with medical professionals and according to their faith and conscience. This is why I think abortion should remain legal, despite the terrible consequences of its misuse.

But this isn’t about wanting abortion to be legal. It’s about what’s going on in the Republican party. When Todd Akin made his idiotic comments about “legitimate rape,” he became the recipient of considerable backlash from Republican officials. Here’s the problem: The backlash was all comments about how he made the party look bad. How such comments can cost Republicans votes. How he should drop out of the race. Where were the comments about how he was WRONG? The suggestions that he actually learn how the human reproductive system works?

Republican backlash against Todd Akin wasn’t about him being unfit to serve because he was an idiot, it was about how saying such things in public is politically unsound. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that most Republicans actually share his view, but are smart enough not to say it in public!

Beyond Todd Akin, there was another recent comment by Republican Richard Mourdock about pregnancy from rape being “something God intended.” I won’t repeat the same arguments as above, but I want to make my position abundantly clear:

If you oppose abortion in the case of rape, then you believe that a man who rapes a woman should have more power over that woman’s body than she does.

I have come to the conclusion that the Republican party as a whole has shown in the last few years that they are unfit to lead, unfit to legislate, and unfit to make appropriate choices for this country. Like a tantrum-throwing toddler, the entire Republican party needs to be sent to the corner to think about what they’ve done and learn to make smarter and more appropriate choices.

And that’s why I voted.

A check from Google

Somewhere over on the right hand side of this page, there are some advertisements. We have them on this website and a couple of others. It’s a program called “Google Adsense,” where you put Google ads on your page and if someone clicks on the ads, they pay you a little bit of money (on the order of a few cents). Once your account balance reaches $100, they send you a check.

We started putting adsense on our websites when we put this website up in September 2006, just before we got married. It took just over 5 years to accumulate a balance of $100, and on December 27, 2011, Google sent us a check:

(click for larger version and to see the exact amount)

So, while we’re not quite killing it like this guy, Google supplied us with a little bit of money we wouldn’t have otherwise had. Thanks, Google!

2010 Year in Review

Tonight, as we bid farewell to 2010, we reflect on some of the things that have happened this year. In hindsight, it’s been a very big year for us, with a lot of big, big changes. Here’s our list of accomplishments for 2010:

  • In January, Jacob went back to school to work on getting a Masters degree in Computer Science.
  • On one saturday in April, we got an iPad and learned that we were going to become parents (OK, so getting an iPad isn’t really a huge accomplishment, but it WAS an exciting day, and helped us launch a new business).
  • On June 14, we closed on the purchase of a house that had been trying to sell itself to us for two years, and on the same day started telling people that Marcia was pregnant.
  • On December 3, Marcia completed her mitosis and now we have two Marcias.
  • 2 weeks later, Jacob finished his second semester of graduate school (with a 4.0 GPA, which I’m quite proud of).
  • This morning, December 31, we read the Second Epistle of John, which was 373 consecutive days of reading scriptures together. 2010 was the first year in which we read together every day.
  • Also as of December 31, we have kept the smaller Marcia alive for 4 whole weeks, which is longer than any plant (and most fish) we’ve ever owned. The original Marcia is still alive and happy as well.

2010 Was very good to us, and we’re excited to see what 2011 brings. Happy New Year!