ow, my legs

This year, I’m trying to work on prioritizing my health and fitness. I have a tendency to let exercise be the first thing to go when I get a little stressed, or when my routine/framework/structure gets stressed (i.e. travel). Prior to the Europe trip last year, I was pretty good about consistently exercising, but as soon as we went on a trip, everything fell apart and I could never quite get back on the bandwagon.

My cardiovascular fitness is terrible. Just, pretty terrible.

I’m planning to jump back into a full routine starting next week. As part of that, Adam and I are going to do a couple of workouts together (for accountability reasons and because otherwise I will be highly unlikely to drag my ass to a group exercise class), and we decided to try Orangetheory because Sam absolutely loves it and recommended it to us.

We went to our first class on Sunday, and my legs are still dying from it. So that’s… good? The HIIT involved treadmill stuff, and I hate treadmills. So, so much. Mostly because I hate running. Mostly because my cardiovascular fitness is terrible. It’s all just a full, slow, wheezy, intermittently nauseous circle. But in theory, the slowness and wheeziness and nausea will get better with practice. (Right?) And then maybe I will hate treadmills less.

Either way, we’re doing it. (Time to find more supportive sports bras…)

2019: looking forward

Resolutions, goals. Goals, resolutions. Who knows.

I went back and re-read my resolutions from last year, and they still generally apply. I think I’ve done a pretty good job with my mindset this year, but there’s still always more work to be done. Most of my systems started degrading and falling apart after the Europe trip, and it was hard to get things back on the rails totally. Which makes sense, but I want to figure out how to make my own systems and structures more robust and much less fragile.

But resolutions are different from goals.

I think of goals as discrete tasks that can be accomplished. I think setting goals is almost more difficult than making resolutions (though the difficulty of execution may be flipped there) because it’s very easy to fall into a trap of working towards something that isn’t actually helpful.

For example, word count. It’s important to recognize that a word count and a complete, coherent work are two different things. Fulfilling a word count doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve completed a story. Which isn’t to say that word counts aren’t helpful — they very much can be if you are using them to measure what they should measure. But I think that there has to be a clarity there that is often missing when I talk to other people about their goals and when I’m thinking about my own.

My plan this year is to have three month goals, revisit and re-evaluate, and then refocus periodically throughout 2019. Most of the three month goals are project related goals. Originally, I had come up with some deadlines for certain things, but then I realized that most of those were completely arbitrarily decided. I don’t have enough context for how I work and what this whole writing process is to set reasonable timeline goals.

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spider-man

Last night, I saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and it might be the best movie I’ve seen in… I don’t even know how long. Ages. It is now one of my favorite superhero movies, and might be the best Spider-man movie (as much as I love Tom Holland’s Peter Parker — sorry, Tom). It was non-stop entertaining all the way through but also substantive. Seriously, it’s just so, so good. And it’s also GORGEOUS.

There are many more things that I could say about how amazing it is, but really, you should just go see it.

Here’s the trailer, if you haven’t checked it out yet:

hey docs, the ama is selling your info

My brief blurb about digital age privacy reminded me of something that I discovered recently.

Anyone who has gone through medical training to obtain an MD or a DO has had the experience of receiving an absurd amount of spam related to the medical field. You’ve probably received, something like once a month, a mailer from the AMA (American Medical Association) asking you to renew your AMA membership, even if you aren’t a member of the AMA.

I get these, and they annoy the fuck out of me. It’s bad enough that it’s real life spam delivered to my door and shoved into my house, but don’t try to trick me into “renewing” a membership I never had in the first place. They mostly just fill my recycling bin, and I have to go through the trouble of shredding stuff with sensitive info on it. Fucking mailers.

Finally, I decided to look into how to stop getting these things.

It turns out, if you go through an accredited medical training institution, i.e. to get your MD or DO, your information is placed into a file with the AMA, into a database called the Physician Masterfile. This record includes lots of demographic and biographical information, like oh, training institutions, licensing stuff, etc. It also includes stuff like your home address.

The best bit is that this information is shared with third parties as a default — you have to contact the AMA (in a somewhat difficult to find and convoluted way) in order to opt out and protect your private information.

From the AMA website:

“The types of licensing organizations that use the AMA Physician Masterfile database include hospitals, medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment and supply companies, consultants, market researchers, insurance companies, commercial organizations, medical publishers, CME providers, physician recruiters and investment firms and other entities.”

These companies aren’t necessarily vetted, as far as I can tell. That’s also why you can get mailings for scammy medical school loan forgiveness bullshit. I imagine that’s part of what’s covered by “other entities.”

So, if as a medical trainee (or ex-medical trainee), you’ve ever been confused as to why you’re suddenly getting random pharmaceutical companies contacting you, or various institutions trying to sell you CME credits, well. Now you know how they are finding you.

Here’s some more info, if this is relevant to you or if you’re curious, with some links to the “no contact” form and some instructions on how to restrict access to your data. I had them put a “no contact” restriction on my file by contacting them through a “contact us” form on the site, so that’s also an option apparently.

WTF, AMA.

new phone, who dis

I got a new phone! It’s a Pixel 3. I’m finally retiring my good old Nexus 5x to the fields of factory reset and minimal trade in value.

So far, it’s pretty nice. Very slick interface, highly responsive gesture navigation, amazing camera. It also really, really, really, really, really wants me to use Google assistant and let it “learn my voice” and whatnot. Which… no? Thanks?

Not that I really have any illusions about the digital age whatsoever — I know all my info has been sold to the a bidder, probably not even the highest one. And likely both Google and Amazon already have plenty of voice recordings of me, even though they both say they aren’t storing them. But lots of people say lots of things.

It’s mostly that I just don’t really see myself actually using the voice assistant whatever thing. Like, I’m not usually trying to text or look things up while I’m also doing something that I literally can’t put down for two seconds. So it just seems unnecessary to me. Maybe it won’t be and I’ll change my tune a few weeks down the line, but until then…

Here’s the other kind of funny thing. I’ve been trying to stay off my phone for most of the day, trying to be less tethered to it. I’m working on recognizing that when it notifies me of something, it’s usually not urgent and doesn’t require me to drop what I’m doing to respond. I still have a tendency to carry it around though and just look at it sometimes when I’m at a loss for what to do. Which is a habit I’m still in the process of breaking.

But since I got the new phone and I haven’t gotten my case for it yet, I’ve been leaving it safely in my office for fear of dropping this expensive, shiny piece of hardware. I always get a case and a screen protector because I drop my phone at least once a week, probably more (my Nexus 5X + case tolerated this with great aplomb) so I don’t want to risk it. Which means that I’m not carrying it around.

Which makes me wonder if I should cancel my order for a phone case…

tea for trouble

After Thanksgiving, we were traveling home with an excess of gifts, as we are after every trip to Houston. It’s become routine enough that I’ve started taking a slightly larger bag than necessary, purely because I’m sure it’ll be stuffed with various things for me to bring home. This time, we were carting back multiple kinds of tea, bottles of wine, and some snacks. We distributed the things into our bags and also ended up checking a box because of the wine.

One of the teas that my mom sent us home with was pu’er, which is a special fermented black tea. This tea is sold in compressed cakes of tea leaves, shaped like flat discs, wrapped in cotton paper. It comes with text on the top and a little insert within the wrapper that attests to the authenticity — pu’er can be expensive, and counterfeiting is sometimes an issue. The pu’er we had was also nestled in a little box and the box went into a bag.

But we didn’t have room in our luggage for extraneous packaging, so Adam took the wrapped disc out and put that in his backpack, neatly cushioned by some sweaters. (At least traveling in winter means you have copious packing material to cushion breakables with.)

It looks like this:

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writing (and life) recap 2018: w47

Survived round one of marathon family events season. Which, as a moniker, makes it sound rather dire (even for all that it is certainly true).

Thanksgiving shenanigans were good, better than expected even. This year, we went to go visit my family in Houston. Had waaaaaay too many huge meals, which surprised no one. The usual number of (or maybe slightly fewer, if I’m being optimistic) problematic things were said and called out. For Thanksgiving proper, we had an elaborate hot pot, which is our go to holiday meal. My mom and stepdad tend to go all out with it; they event built their own giant hot pot specific table. It’s fun and interactive and social. (Should’ve snapped a pic, but I’m bad at remembering things like that especially when confronted with tasty food.)

Got to see the brother and the stepsister and a lot of dog nieces (and one dog nephew). They were all happily spoiled by my mother who insists on feeding all dogs table scraps. Her own Maltese, named Proton, now eats mostly people food, and has terrible tableside begging habits because of it, to no one’s surprise at all. This has been a running conversation for duration of Proton’s entire life, and this year, I chose to be very ambivalent and vaguely amused about it, which was less stressful. I think partially it’s because the parties involved were more honest about their intentions — whereas previously, my mom made overtures about not wanting Proton to beg or was (seemingly) annoyed at her behavior, now she just fully embraces the fact that this is how she wants to raise her dog. Which makes the whole thing simpler because then I can let it go instead of watch advice that I was asked for go completely unheeded and then hear the same lamentations at each meal.

Everyone should be more honest about their intentions.

Writing was a little more difficult this week, but I got the words in. I wanted to make sure that I wrote while traveling because I didn’t want to feel too tied to location or supplies when trying to get work done. It would be totally like my jerkbrain to try to entice me away from being productive by telling me that I needed to be at my desk or I needed to have x, y, and z. So proving to myself that I can/should work away from home was important. It seems like such a minor thing when you say it (or write it) out loud (or on paper), but I think it’s helpful. It’s sort of like how last year’s NaNo, though I wasn’t totally happy with my end result, proved to me that I could do it.

And it’s not even that I’m proving to myself that I can do these discrete things, not really. It’s more proving to myself that I can hold myself accountable. That I can keep the promises I make to myself, which is essentially the only category of promise I have historically had no compunctions in breaking.

I am worried about a couple of plot points where I think things get a little weak. In those bits, my characters lack some agency and are reacting mostly to external stimulus instead of pushing the plot forward themselves, so I need to think about that. I’m solidly in the muddy, mushy middle, and it’s feeling messy, which makes my enthusiasm flag. (That was a lot of M’s. I should have said motivation, I suppose, to continue the trend.) What it tells me is that I need to outline to where I am and figure out where it breaks down, go back to where I was enthusiastic, and figure out a new way forward. That feels very daunting right now though…

Word count total: 42,460