Weekly Meanderings, 16 April 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 5.18.06 PMJordan Spieth’s caddie:

A wise coach reminded me recently, winning shows your character and losing shows ALL your character. Jordan continues to model grace and humility through wins and especially losses. The student continues to teach the teacher, and now millions others, just like he did at Erin Hills.

Jordan Spieth is the same genuine, grounded and humble person he was five years ago, in victory or defeat.

Lena H. Sun tells us about what? Hospital refunds!

At Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, hospital officials want to keep their customers happy. So when patients are upset about a long wait in the emergency department, or a doctor’s brusque manner, or a meal that never arrived in a room, Geisinger is doing more than apologizing.

It’s offering money back on their care, no questions asked.

The hospital system is the first in the country to adopt what has long been a basic tenet of retail business: customer refunds. This focus on customer satisfaction is a relatively new concept for health care, in which doctors have typically called the shots. And it’s one that Geisinger’s staff questioned when president and chief executive David Feinberg came up with the refund idea last fall.

But the novel approach is in keeping with health care’s shift to improve the experience of patients. Under the Affordable Care Act, government payments are increasingly tied to the quality of care and patient satisfaction as opposed to the quantity of services provided.

“We want to make sure we not only have the right care that is high quality and safe, but we also want to make sure our care is compassionate, dignified and delivered with a lot of kindness,” said Feinberg, who took over Geisinger last May after running the UCLA health system.

Scott Allen:

On Monday, Major League Baseball umpires will wear patches with the initials “EA” in honor of Emmett Ashford, who, 50 years ago, became the first African-American to umpire a regular season MLB game.

Ashford broke MLB’s umpiring color barrier at D.C. Stadium (now known as RFK) on April 11, 1966, manning third base during the Senators’ 5-2 Opening Day loss to the Indians.

“I’ve got butterflies,” Ashford said three days before his debut. “I’ve waited a long time for a chance to make the major leagues.”

Ashford, who played baseball in college, took a leave of absence from his job as a postal worker in 1951 to pursue a career in umpiring, starting in the Southwestern International League. Three years and two additional leagues later, the Los Angeles native was promoted to the Pacific Coast League, where he worked for 12 seasons. In 1963, Ashford was named the PCL’s umpire-in-chief. In September 1965, his contract was sold to the American League, setting the stage for his historic debut.

Ashford worked spring training games for the Dodgers and Indians in 1966. Opening Day marked his first trip to D.C., which featured a couple of surprises. A magazine photographer woke Ashford up at 6 a.m. on the day of the game with a phone call confirming that he would be on hand for a 10 a.m. photo shoot. With Vice President Hubert Humphrey scheduled to attend the game, The Post’s William Gildea reported that an FBI agent grabbed Ashford as he tried to enter the umpire’s room.

“I told him I was an umpire,” Ashford said. “He said there aren’t any Negro umpires in the majors. So I told him, ‘There won’t be if you don’t let me go.’ ”

How to teach your kids the basics of economics?

Prisons and reading, with Perry Stein:

Larry Blair is finally reading books.

The 61-year-old dropped out of middle school after an armed robbery arrest and never considered himself much of a traditional academic.

He has called a jail cell home for a combined 40 years, drifting in and out for a jumble of theft, drug and assault convictions. Each time he’s released, he reverts to stealing and lands back behind bars.

Blair will complete his sentence this month, and he says it’ll be different this time. He promises to keep reading.

The D.C. Public Library system opened its first location in the city’s only jail in March 2015, introducing inmates to books and library programming that also will be available to them after release. In its first year, 1,100 inmates checked out 4,600 books.

Why are they so much taller?

The interview started with a comparison of average heights in different countries. For most of the history of the United States, Americans were the tallest people in the world. Recently, though, northern Europeans became the world’s tallest people. The Scandinavians have a reputation for stature, but it turns out it is the the Dutch who are the tallest — eight inches taller, on average, than they were two centuries ago.

Hacker and Pierson argue the shift occurred because, these days, active government has made Europeans healthier than we are. In particular, according to the authors, they have healthier childhoods, because their governments offer more material help to pregnant women and infants than does the U.S. government.

Wonkblog: This is my favorite sentence in the book: “The Dutch have had to rewrite their building codes so men don’t routinely smash their heads into door frames.” Can you talk about why that fact is important?

Hacker: The United States has gone from being the country with the tallest people in the world by a pretty significant margin — during the Second World War, Americans were a couple inches taller than the Germans they were fighting — to a country in which heights are pretty middling compared with other rich democracies. We mention Dutch men running into the tops of doorways because we and the people who study height think it’s a very good marker of population health. It tells you about nutrition in the womb and socioeconomic cohesion and the degree to which a society is good at encouraging a sort of healthy flourishing, particularly in early life.

The fact that we have gone from being the tallest to among the smallest dovetails with all the other evidence in the book. While we’re continuing to improve in areas — like education, life expectancy and the rest — we’re improving much more slowly than in the past, and we’re improving much more slowly than other rich democracies are today.

Pierson: It’s not that Americans are getting shorter. It’s that the rate of improvement has slowed down dramatically, which has not been true in a lot of other countries. We’re not waxing nostalgic for the idea that life was so much better in some earlier time. We’re really trying to celebrate the incredible progress that the United States and other rich democracies made over the course of the 20th century. What’s alarming is the way in which — in relative terms, either compared with our own past, or compared with the performance of other countries — the rate of progress has slowed down. That’s something to be concerned about.

Hacker: We have grown bigger in one way, of course. We’ve gotten significantly heavier. The average male in the 1960s weighs the same amount as the average woman weighs today.

¿Adiós a la siesta?

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wants to end a long-standing and well-recognized tradition: the mid-afternoon break.

Under new legislation, Spain would switch back to Greenwich Mean Time and do away with siestas, the sleep-filled breaks some Spaniards take.

“I will find a consensus to make sure the working day ends at 6 p.m.,” Rajoy said, according to the London Times.

He made the push at a party conference over the weekend, where he tried to court other parties, unions and business leaders to support the idea,according to the Standard.

Traditionally, the Spanish work day begins at 10 a.m. and is split in half by a two- to three-hour break known as the siesta. Spaniards traditionally leave at 2 p.m. and return to work around 4 or 5, according to The Times. The work day typically ends at 8 p.m. (As some readers note, not all Spaniards partake in the siesta; many follow schedules closer to a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day.)

Niraj Chokshi:

“Calling Sweden, you will soon be connected to a random Swede.”

Those are the first words one hears when dialing the “Swedish Number,” a new hotline created to connect callers with local residents. A few flat tones later and the caller is patched through to, well, a random Swede.

One such call late Thursday morning connected with David Lamm, a product designer from the nation’s second most-populous city, Gothenburg. Lamm, who speaks English, volunteered to field calls on Wednesday, which was both the day the service launched and his 31st birthday.

“We were sort of invited to answer the phone for Sweden and I thought I had to sign up,” he said.

The conversation on Thursday was Lamm’s seventh through the service. His first was with a pleasant man from Istanbul, who, like this reporter, first asked about the weather. (It was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit and raining when we spoke.) Lamm also spoke with two Americans, he said….

“We want to show the real Sweden – a unique country worth visiting with the right of public access, sustainable tourism, and a rich cultural heritage,” Magnus Ling, general secretary and chief executive officer of the association, said in a statement.

Just after 11 a.m. on Thursday, that meant Lamm, who, for what it’s worth, defended the refugees his country has welcomed.

“We’ve had problems in Sweden, of course, but it’s mostly due to us being bad at integration projects,
he said. “I wouldn’t blame anything on the people coming here, I mean they’re fleeing for their lives.”

On making pesto — the big and real way, from Liguria:

Roberto Panizza is doing something that’s as second nature to him as making a cup of tea is to me. Deftly and rhythmically, he rotates his giant 50kg (eight stone) marble mortar, merrily crushing the basil leaves. The huge wooden pestle weighs almost 5kg (11lb).

“It’s my only sport at the moment,” he says, laughing.

We are at Panizza’s restaurant, Il Genovese, where he makes between one and three kilos of pesto like this every day, 1kg at a time. It’s Sunday morning – his day off – but he cheerfully demonstrates the correct rotating action before asking me if I’d like to have a go.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.