Risk Calculations

abby sunderland...one of my heroes

Tonight at dinner we had a wonderful conversation about Abby Sunderland, the 16-yr-old California girl who attempted to circumnavigate the globe and was capsized by a rogue wave in the Southern Indian Ocean.

The question is simple. What is too risky? Why would we ever allow our youngsters to attempt such dangerous things?

The argument was thrust forth that kids of these ages lack the life experience to evaluate and examine the risk of such a feat. They lack caution and wisdom and the 'I'm Invincible' syndrome would likely lead to an unnecessary death.
Well... I disagree. 

Life is a gift. It is at times very fragile and at others amazingly resilient. At the end of the day, we fool ourselves in thinking we control our safety. So here the course bifurcates: do we become wildly irresponsible and reckless because tomorrow we die or do we hole up into a padded room and ponder the many dangers and terrors of life. I'd rather walk the line.

Here is my example. 

At age 14 one of my best friends and role models died in a motorcycle accident likely caused by his own reckless driving. It rocked my world. He was the quintessence of the invincible spirit. Full of life, full of adventure, at times full of rebellion. Nonetheless, he was one of my heroes. It was a devastating loss.

So is that it? Do I walk out and vow to never ride a motorcycle? Do I let fear rule this small area of my life? No, I buy a motorcycle and teach my self to be the best dang rider out there.

But why?

Because life is not about what you can hide from or what you can avoid. Life is about what you look dead in the eyes and say, "Here I am, I'm not moving." It's about the day you walk through the woods in the pitch black and conquer the darkness. It's about staring at the crowd of 5,000 and giving your speech with passion. It's about sailing through a gale on 4 hours of sleep.

Great people...who change the world... aren't great because they made sure their seatbelts were on every time they turned the key. They were great because they assessed the risks, calculated that they had a chance and pulled the trigger on life. 

One day I will be a father. I will tell you now that you won't want your kids to hang out at jd's house. I probably won't have liability insurance and I will most likely have a difficult and awesome rock climbing wall. I don't want to be a parent who chastises my kids for every semi-dangerous thing they do. I want to be the one who challenges them to climb higher, harder, better.

Here is my reasoning. I would rather take an active role in the dangerous desires of youth and be a guide to intentional thought processes and wisdom, than say "that's dangerous!" and have them do it anyway with their buddies. I am no fan of outright stupidity. But calculated risk is a gauntlet that reaps a reward won by no other means. It is the treasure of knowing oneself in the midst of real danger and real risk. It is at this point one gains this elusive 'experience' of life.

"To live is to risk, to live well is to risk wisely."     - me

So, to end this late night rambling. Let me leave you with a wonderfully inspiring story.

Click here to see more of the story and a book promo for Abby Sunderland.


A Hiatus to Make You Chuckle

 if you haven't seen this story yet. it's worth the couple minutes.

perhaps my favorite song right now.

i love these guys. check em outhttp://www.youtube.com/user/schmoyoho


german cars

Following a gin and tonic with our new dock friends from the distressed sailboat; Sebastian, the Brit (read thick british accent and all the 'proper' sayings) and his wife Liz got up to leave for the night. They were heading up to Baltimore from Annapolis.

Rebecca: "Ok. Take care and drive safely tonight."

Sebastian: "Oh, don't worry I've got a German car."

(semi-confused look on everybody's face. what is this guy talking about?)

Sebastian: "Yes, the only problem is that whenever you open the bloody thing it starts chatting and telling you, 'Invade Poland Now.'"

word for word. i swear.


oops... my anchor is dragging

Today I helped save somebody's beautiful sailboat. While minding my own business and steadily working away building a pump house for a landscaped stream; I noticed a gorgeous 1940's wooden yawl come flying into the creek under full sail with 25 knots of wind on the stern.

The boat we saved looked a lot like this, except with bright blue sails.

It was a picturesque moment for sure.

The captain and first mate, turned the nose of the boat into the wind, the sails flapped wildly and they dropped the anchor. Time for cold beer and rum!!

Not yet.

I turned back to my work, busily cutting, hammering, and pasting things together when my father-in-law called over, "Are you seeing this!?" "He didn't let out enough chain for his anchor." "I think he's dragging!"

Skip ten minutes.

We are fighting against a howling and growling wind to keep their sailboat from dragging into my father-in-law's boat and then the boat at anchor behind his and the rocky shoreline behind that. The captain, keeping himself together although obviously embarrassed, kept shouting his appreciation for our help over the white noise of the wind. After several minutes of confused chaos and the help of a bigger boat from the neighboring marina, we safely towed his 36ft, 26,000 lb piece of flotsam along side our dock and wrestled a few lines onto the pilings. 

Turns out his engine hadn't been run in two years, so as his sailboat started to drag the anchor across the bottom, he became powerless to stop himself. In fact, he just bought this boat and today marked the celebratory christening sail. Talk about a rough first date with the future wife.

I left them this evening, covered in diesel, still trying to get the engine to run. Should they still be there tomorrow, I'll be sure to fix the engine and get pictures, or maybe video of our new friends.

In honor of our new dock friends, I'd like to provide a quick pointer on anchoring.

When it comes to anchoring, it's all about SCOPE. Scope is the ratio between the how much anchor rode (chain/rope) that you have in the water and the depth of the water.

Important rule:     'mas es mejor'   or   ' more is better'

If you ever find yourself dragging an anchor, first thing you ought to do is let out another 50 feet of anchor rode (assuming this means you have space behind you). Then wait and see if it holds.

When it holds... sit back, relax and drink a beer. If it doesn't, turn the engine on, cuss under your breath, and reset the anchor.


blue collar + white collar = 'baby blue' collar?

my life is now on a course headed toward the 'white collar' world. the world that has much of the wealth of this nation and also pays most of the tax revenue. the world of the ivory tower and the separate elitist. of course, not all doctors fit these categories and not all white collar people are elitist. but let's be honest, a person with the opportunity to even consider med school is quite different from the guy who mulched the neighborhood lawns.

however, i am proud of my blue collar background. following a highly theoretical 'let's read this and talk about that' kind of education, i found myself diving into the challenges of the blue collar world. on any given day you'll find me fixing a leaky toilet, unsticking doors, running electric for new light fixtures, or maybe installing insulation under homes with cramped crawlspaces full of cobwebs, glass and animal bones. i know what it takes to shovel and spread 20 cubic yards of wet mulch alone... in one day. it is hard, hard work and the toughness of my hands proves the work i've done.

so what am i saying here.

one day i'll sit down with some blue collar guy and his family who speak no english and seem intimidated to be in the office of a 'white collar, white male, DOCTOR.' i'm gonna look at him, notice his calloused palms and the dark lines of fresh dirt under his finger nails... and i'm gonna smile....

i know this guy.

his blue collar life won't lead me to condescension or easy stereotypes about some non-tax paying, non-english speaking illegal immigrant... no, i'll be filled with respect and admiration for a man who works hard. a man who has a back ache not from sitting in a comfy chair but because he lifted 80 lb bags of concrete all day.

these guys are my heroes. i'll be a white collar doc who looks UP to my blue collar patients.

so i think i'll endeavor to be a 'baby blue' collar doctor.

my dirty face after a day installing insulation in an itty bitty crawlspace

laying the bathroom floor on the second floor

a bunch of kids thought it'd be cool to tear up all the bricks, more fun for me.


blow a hole in your wall... i did.

Have you ever walked from one room to the next and been like, "i really wish this wall wasn't there," or said, "these rooms feel so small and claustrophobic."

Welcome to whit and I's latest project. We talked about it for a while and one night it happened.

A shot of inspiration moved into the realm of action and i whipped out the key hole saw and blew a hole in the wall.

The pictures today are after cutting out the studs (2x4s that hold up walls) and supporting the 2nd story with a double 2x12 header (the structural support over windows, doors, and big holes in the wall like mine). 

2nd coat of spackle and I'll begin building the breakfast bar with 1x3 lengths of premium grade pine.

 Once i finish the spackle and install the breakfast bar, we'll paint the kitchen and living room. We'll be sure to keep you posted and do the big reveal in hopefully less than a month (wink, wink). If you don't know this already, carpenters are predominantly known to have projects like this last for indefinitely long periods of time. My current count... 23 days. Let's try to keep it under 40 shall we?

Anybody else have those scary projects?  Write me for design ideas and any help. Whit and I love this stuff.


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my first patient

whitney plaster landon is not feeling well.

here is what i gave her for lunch.

organic spinach
cherry tomatoes
chedder cheese
smoked turkey
flour tortilla

Of course she covered this masterpiece in 'sweet baby rays' right after the picture.

my medical future. in 5 parts. in 10 years

Calenders and lists are simultaneously liberating and terrifying. We have no guarantees with our time on this earth and God's loving laughter accompanies a life planned so rigidly.

(cue laughter)

May 2011 - May 2012
   - take calculus in prep for physics (june-august)
   - get Wilderness First Responder certification (june)
   - apply to 4 different pre-medical post-baccalaureate programs (sept-oct)
   - travel to Haiti to learn, help and research the realities of post-disaster long-term medical care (sept)
   - continue doing volunteer research work at Johns Hopkins
   - continue working construction to pay the bills (always)

June 2012 - May 2013
   - begin a pre-med program somewhere
   - volunteer research work at JHU
   - take MCATS
   - apply to med schools
   - continue working construction to pay the bills

June 2013 - August 2014
   - do a 'glide' year (this means gaining clinical or research experience in preparation for med school)
   - continue working construction to pay the bills

Sept 2014 - May 2018
   - survive med school

May 2018 -  ? 2021
  - begin making babies??
  - residency somewhere

I will be 35 yrs old at this point in my life.

walking on water


Welcome to my thoughts.

This blog is primarily an outlet for me to chart my thoughts, feelings, trials and joys through this next season of my life...the pursuit of medical school. This journey is long and at times looks less like a path and more like outer space, without direction, boundary and gravity.

If anybody finds anything interesting, helpful, beneficial or inspiring, I will be thrilled.

I am officially getting out of the boat. My heart is beating fast and my fists are clenched white.

I am walking on water now.