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Obamacare ACA information

Researching ObamaCare (the Affordable Care Act)

Please send me helpful articles on the subject.  No politically-motivated articles, flaming  articles, etc. I want to understand how it will work so I can advise others who ask and determine what I can do to encourage its reform. I think we need healthcare reform. But it is apparent that the ACA has major problems. However, ut we need to work toward solutions, not excuses or political stonewalling.

Here are a couple articles that I have come across the help me understand ACA:


The article discusses the tax implications of ObamaCare.  Hopefully most of you understand marginal tax rates. As you make more money, you pay a higher % of tax on the additional income you make.  The first $17,400 of taxable income is taxed at 10%, the next $53,000 is taxed at 15%, and so forth.  Your marginal tax rate is the rate you pay for the last dollars of additional income you make. The higher your marginal tax rate, the more likely you are to look for tax breaks.

Under ACA, insurance coverage is subsidized for many Americans on a sliding scale via the premium assistance tax credit. As you make more money, the tax credit goes down.   The effect is to increase the marginal tax rate. See the article for more clarify and examples.


    You have heard a lot about the problems with the web site. In this article and the link below, there is information on how 3 young people built a functioning web site to allow individuals to find out their options under the ACA,  how much it would cost, etc.  Here is a link to the site they built: The web site is nice, the premiums are not (but that is the cost of the American system).

Building websites

Here are tips on building your own web sites from my experience (there are many options; these work for me).

  • Define your purpose. It will shape many of the decisions that follow.
    • A personal blog. There are lots of free options (; and more)
    • A web site designed around a topic of interest. For example, I am preparing to launching one on what I have learned on health.  So I am going to get a domain name and have a hosted site.
    • A business web site. Here you will likely want to go elsewhere for more help.

Note: The rest of what is belong explains my experience in the second choice above.

  • Get started
    • Decide on a domain name (e.g.
      • Give it some thought.  Unless it is really unique (like my personal domain, you may have to get creative in the name as there are a lot of domains already taken. In some cases, people register names to sell.
      • Is it available?  I have my domains registered at and they allow you to determine if your domain is available and if not, they offer alternatives that are.
      • For my health web site, I am going to register both a .org (as I am starting off with the idea of just sharing information, a non-profit reason) as well as the same name .com. There are two reasons: 1) who knows, some day I might want to use it for commercial reasons, and 2) many people might try the .com name when looking for my site; I want to keep someone else from taking it.
    • Register your domain name and find a host for the site.
      • These are separate tasks but I am listing them under one step as I do them both at the same place:
      • Registering your domain. It usually costs about $15/year. Or if you do a .org and .com, it will cost you more like $30/year.
      • Hosting your domain .  With godaddy, I can host mulitple domains for about $50/year. Note you need one domain to be your hosting domain. Addiitonal domains are created as addin domains for purposes of hosting the files, but they will be viewed by the world as completely separate.
        • Web site Administration: I use cpanel. Godaddy has a simpler alternative. ….
    • Choose and install your web development environment. For hosted domains, I use, which godaddy allows you to install on its servers.
      • Installing.
      • Creating the user name and password for your WordPress site work (this is separate from the hosting above; once you set things up,  most of your work will be in worepress)
    • Start building your site (to come)

It is a boy

As is detailed in a blog post on Cathy and my blog at the link below, Cathy and I became grandparents for the first time recently.

A sonogram at 18 weeks said that our first grandchild was supposed to be a girl. But the first words from our daughter Betsy was, “It’s a boy.” We thought she was kidding but Matt immediately said, “No, it’s a boy alright.”  See Now the grand-parenting fun, spoken of by many of my friends, is here.

Christmas letter and updated recipe and exercise pages

FYI, Cathy and I posted our 2012 Christmas newsletter  on our web site:  It includes highlight from our full 2012 and our big anticipation for coming year: we will be grandparents (expected in June).

We have also and updated our page on healthy recipes, adding many new recipes and organizing them better.

Finally, we have also updated our list of favorite at-home exercise routines at  The benefits to heart, muscles, brains and overall health are profound and well worth it.

Next time: a bit about my work.

2012 Arkansas River Compact meeting
2012 Arkansas River Compact meeting

The First 20 Minutes, a book review

Driven by a family history of heart disease and diabetes and a job that is both high stress and low in physical activity, I have made exercise a regular  part of my life. I started with 20 minutes a day and gradually built from there. Even though a regular part of my life, it is not always easy to get up and get it done. Is it worth it? How much exercise do I need? What type of exercise do I need? Not easy questions with all the competing information out there.

The First 20 Minutes, by Gretchen Reynolds, tackles these important questions. Ms. Reynolds seeks to provide today’s best answers to these questions by reviewing what science is currently telling us about exercise. She reviews what science says about its benefits, how much we should do, and what type we should do. And she uncovers a number of surprises uncovered by science in recent year.

In doing so, she has written a book that has helped me hone my exercise program and encourages me to keep it up.

While I think the book is worth buying and reading in its entirety, the greatest benefits will be gained in reading first chapter of the book (which may take more than 20 minutes).

While I hope to write more specifics later, here are some of the big ideas and specifics I got from the book:

  • We get significant benefits to our longevity from regular activity and/or exercise, esp. from “the first 20 minutes”.  So, “Move More” .
  • There are profound additional benefits to our level of fitness for going beyond the first 20 minutes, and esp. with moderate intensity aerobic and strength training workouts. Recommended amounts of exercise for fitness is 150 minutes low-intensity exercise OR 75 weekly minutes of more vigorous aerobic exercise plus weight training twice a week.  You can split them almost any way you want. I am doing the later (bolded) approach.
  • For the more fitness and athletic-minded, you must push yourself. Yes there is a point where additional activity yields little in the way of benefits to health.
  • High-intensity internal training provides a way to health benefits in even less time. Recent studies indicate there is little value in stretching (“flexibility is overrated”) nor extended warm-ups.  Instead brief dynamic stretching is more effective preparation.
  • Diet and exercise – The book confirmed my notion that there is no pill (or powder) you can take to get in shape or that will contribute significantly to fitness. You just need to eat well.
  • Drink when you are thirsty; don’t over do it.
  • In regard to the relationship between of exercise and weight loss: if you are exercising to lose weight, you are likely to be disappointed. Instead,  exercise for the health benefits, not for weight loss. Research however, does find that regular exercise benefits weight control as most people who keep weight off, exercise regularly.
  • In regard to strength training and workouts, the book provides two primary lessons to me:
  1. Our form matters. For example many damage their backs by doing core training, and esp.  crunches, incorrectly. I do my strength exercises with a DVD with a trainer who leads a workout consistent with best practices. (see my recommendations).
  2. It is good to take care in activities to prevent injury as you are much more likely to get injured if you have been injured before.
  • Exercise also provides very significant benefits to our mind and mood. The chapter is definitely an encouragement to me to exercise when I don’t want to (for more on this see my review on Spark, the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain)

Again, there is much more and I hope in the coming weeks to provide more specifics from the book. In the mean time, you might pick up a copy from the library and read at least the first chapter.

Touring and talking horizontal drilling in Kansas

I left this morning (October 2, 2012) before sunrise and returned after sunset. I toured, with other state officials, Ford, Harper, and Kiowa Counties, looking at some of the horizontal drilling (fracking) that is occurring, but mostly talking to local officials in these areas about the impact to their community and what needs to done to prepare for its growing influence. This including, of course, how we deal with insuring that the water needed for both fracking and potential future growth of these rural communities can occur in a way that protects other water rights and the environment. An interesting day. I saw a lot of windmills as well.

Oil and gas produced from horizontal wells is still a very small part of the total (well under 1% at this point), but it has doubled over the last 6 months and will continue to expand at a significant rate during this “exploratory” phase. But from what I could see, it seems it is here to stay; the question is the scale.  For more information see the links below.

Picture of a drill in Ford County

I think Kansas is fortunate that the development occurred in North Dakota and Oklahoma first as we are learning from their experience. The rate of growth is also manageable so far. Time will tell if this remains true.

For more information:

My current workout: the Supreme 90 day

My journey to health of the last 3 years has included regular exercise, including both toning and cardio (mostly running with the dogs). The toning has progressed from easy to more and more challenging (see for what I have used in the past as well as what Cathy has and is using).

But variety and changing up once in a while is good.

One day Cathy came across this system of 10 separate toning routines at our local grocery store for under $10. She took the chance that I could get that much value from it (you can get it via Amazon still for under $20.) If you want a solid, challenging, toning program you can do at home, with variety and minimum equipment, this set is a great value.

You don’t necessary need to keep up with the “athletes/models” on the video. As the instructor says over and over, challenge yourself with what you can handle in terms of weight and pace.

Below is a summary of the 10 CDs and how I use the system. I use 7 of the 10 CD’s, alternating with running (or using our elliptical in the winter).

Most of the workouts can be done in about 30 minutes; a couple of them are 40 minutes.

All the equipment you need is free weights. I current use 8, 10, and 15 pound sets. I may eventually get 20s. Women are challenged to get beyond light weights.  Occasionally the routines use a large Swiss ball, but they provide alternatives if you do not have one.

The day will come when I will likely move on to something else, but for now, this is a great place for me. I have been reading more on exercise lately and these workouts seem consistent with current best practices in exercise.

Here are the 10 DVDs and their time outlines.

  • Warmup (4:19): The warmup includes ab work (the core) & is (at first) like a mini-workout. At over 4 minutes, all of the DVDs except Tabatha Inferno has this warmup.
  • Cool-down (5:57): These are stretches. All of the 10 DVDs have the same cool-down.

1. Chest & Back (32:30 total)
Workout (22:14): At over 22 minutes, they move fast on this first DVD.

3. Tabata Inferno (43:42 total)
Workout (37:45): This is long and tough but I like it. It includes moderate and tough aerobics, with some weight training. The exercises include jumping variations, core work, and the circuits don’t seem to end.  When I am in a hurry, I leave out the last 5 minutes or so.

4. Shoulders & Arms (43:05 total)
Workout (32:49).  This one makes my triceps very sore for a few days. It is getting a bit better as time goes on.

5. Cardio Challenge (41:22 total)
Workout (31:06): A good, challenging, cardio workout, alternating 30 seconds of aerobics, followed by 30 seconds of rest, followed by 30 seconds of using moderate weights in an aerobic fashion, followed by 30 seconds of rest, and then repeat the same pattern.

6. Legs (33:17 total)
Workout (22:51): This is not only leg work, including a fair amount of ab (core) work.

7. Total Body (33:33 total)
Workout (23:17). As the name implies, a good all-around workout.

8. Core Dynamics (28:22 total)
Workout (18:06): At just over 18 minutes, this is the shortest workout.

CD’s I do not use (and my substitutes)

2. Ultimate Ball (40:49 total) [I use Core Dynamics instead]
Workout (30:33): This uses the large Swiss ball. I just did it without the ball.

9. Back & Bi’s (56:38 total) [I use Shoulder/Arms instead]
Workout (46:22): This is the longest workout, at over 46 minutes.

10. Chest, Shoulders, & Tri’s (45:18 total) [I use Chest/Back instead]
Workout (34:52):

March madness: basketball and work

As I walked with the dogs this morning, two things were on my mind: the Jayhawks game tonight (playing Ohio State in the Final 4 match up) and my work. While basketball is the connotation most of us have when it comes to the phrase “March Madness”, I could not help to think it described my work this month, and for that matter, most of the last 15 months.

I have not written much about my work here and I plan to remedy that in the coming weeks and months. We will start with the basics here, esp. how I got to my current position of Chief Engineer.

[I also plan to write in the coming months on my reading on the topic of stress management.  While I think I deal with stress fairly well, earlier this year, the effect of the seemingly unremitting pace of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012 showed itself in new ways. Fortunately, I recognized it for what it was and headed to the library…].

My work, an introduction – I was trained as a civil engineer (KU 1977), worked in consulting for three years in Minnesota, and then spent 3 years in developing Africa as a water resource engineer.

In 1984, on our return to the U.S, I began working for the Kansas Division of Water Resources (DWR) where I have worked since. Having decided that water resources was the specialty of civil engineering where I intended to devote my career, I worked on my master’s degree in water resources engineering, one class per semester from 1984 to 1991. Over the next 23 years I worked up the ranks of DWR in various positions. For a fuller treatment of these years, see my public profile at Linkedin at:

DWR’s major responsibilities include: administering the Kansas Water Appropriation Act (KWAA), the most significant of numerous Kansas water laws. The Act governs all water development and water use in Kansas. The Division also has significant responsibilities under numerous other statutes including exclusive state regulation over dams, levees, and other works in our streams and floodplains as well as administering Kansas interstate (water) compacts.

The Division is led by a position called the Chief Engineer (CE). The media regularly calls the position Kansas “water czar” due its significant regulatory responsibility of the state’s water resources.

How I came to be DWR’s chief engineer – I never really aspired to the position believing it above my capabilities.  When the position of Assistant Chief Engineer opened up in 2005, I did not apply for it because of this. I also never thought my career path within DWR was leading me there (I spent 15 years prior to 2007 out of the mainstream of the Division’s work, leading our technical team dealing with our interstate compact work). But I was wrong. My interstate work had me working regularly and closely with our chief engineer, David Pope. It had me regularly working through difficult, detailed, and very technical negotiations with our neighboring states and the federal government. It had me learning to work with the media and the public and to a limited extent the Legislature.

In 2007, when David Pope suddenly retired after 24 years as chief engineer, I was asked to be Acting Chief Engineer. I was shocked at the time, and agreed to be the Acting CE, but again, did not initially consider applying for the Chief Engineer position.  Over my 5 months as Acting CE, I was encouraged by many persons around me to apply for the job.  I thought long and hard about whether I could do the job well and whether I wanted a job with so much responsibility.

I found that I enjoyed the position, despite its demands.  I also believe it was more than just coincidence that David retired as our last daughter was graduating from high school. Further, during my tenure as acting CE, Cathy and I got some unique input in our lives (something called LEAD; we applied to go before David retired; more on this later) that helped me to see some of my key skills and abilities were well-suited to a position like a CE.

After praying about it, I ultimately decided to apply for the job and in November 2007 was made Kansas fifth Chief Engineer (since 1929; DWR has had 3 chief engineers that have served over 20 years each).

March madness – I have written more above than I intended so I will leave to later to describe the 15 months of madness I have been going through at work.  A lot of March’s work madness has been legislative in nature. This is my fifth legislative session as Chief Engineer and its significant in terms of water legislation is greater than the other four combined.

That is it for now. That other March Madness is calling. The first game is on now and KU plays in two hours. Rock Chalk Jayhalk, go KU.

HealthHabits: eat slow, use small plates

As part of the on-going series on health habits, here are two more we have adopted.

Health Habit 3 –Eat more slowly, increasing enjoyment and eating less

From Eating Well magazine “When eating, it takes 20 minutes for your body to register fullness. And according to a University of Rhode Island study, you can save 70 calories by eating slowly over about half an hour versus eating in under 10 minutes. If you ate slower at every meal, that would translate into losing about two pounds a month. An easy way to slow down your eating is to put your fork down between bites—or consider using chopsticks.

This one has helped me reduce my previous habit of taking a reasonable portion and then going back for seconds before my digestive system realizes the first portion is on its way. When I slowed down, I found resisting the seconds to be much easier. Now, I take a reasonable portion, and slowly enjoy its flavor, and stop.

Health Habit 4 – Use smaller plates (to help control portions sizes) 

From Eating Well magazine  “As serving sizes have increased, so have plate sizes—and seeing appropriately sized portions swimming on a giant plate can make you feel like you’re not getting much food. Put your main meal on a 7-inch plate, which is about the size of a salad plate or child-size plate. Choose a 1-cup dessert or cereal bowl instead of a soup bowl, a 6-ounce wineglass rather than a goblet. When you’re eating out, ask for an extra salad plate and transfer the proper-size portions of your food onto it when you’re served your entree. Then ask the waiter to take away and wrap up the rest.

Again, this one work for me as well. I love ice cream and used to have it regularly in the evening in a bowl. After hearing about the concept, I switched to a small bowl. I eat about half the ice cream but seem to get the same satisfaction. Try it and is if it work for you.