Archive for March, 2012



March 30, 2012

There was a whole bunch of fuss kicked up the other week when it came out that some companies are asking for Facebook username/passwords in job interviews. And to me, it seems to be a lot of kicking and screaming over nothing. It’s probably just a handful of companies that have this tactic, but let’s break it down anyway.

I’m not faulting any employer who tries to ask this question. Sure, it may be a huge invasion of privacy. But no one’s going to argue that getting a nice view of any social profile is going to fill out your impression of a job candidate. So if you ask this question and they give you their information – 1) bad decision maker (see above) and 2) you really did just get access to more information about them. Granted, you’ll probably find information that legally you might not want to know, but that’s a different story.

However, as an interviewee, I’m pretty sure you can always decide not to answer a question. Will it cost you the job? Possibly. But if it’s personal information and you think it’s inappropriate – remember all your schooling about drugs – just say no. It reminds me of when I was filling out apartment applications and some asked for bank account numbers. Now, I understand, it’s just one more check to make sure I don’t skip out on the rent. But if I’ve got a good credit report, there’s no reason you need my bank accounts. So I asked why they needed it, and most of the time they were fine with me leaving it off. Simple.

Second, as pointed out here, giving passwords out to anyone is just bad decision-making. If you give your Facebook password to an interviewer, why wouldn’t you give out your work password to someone pretending to be from the IT department.  Kevin Mitnick is probably laughing his socks off. I don’t even give my passwords to my family or boyfriend. Why would I give it to someone I’m talking to for an hour? What if they’re actually a crazy stalker (those people must work somewhere, right)?

There’s probably an argument out there that it might just be better not to have a Facebook profile.



March 28, 2012

I’m on a roll with my reading. In fact, I’ve actually hit the limit on how many Kindle books I can check out and I still have holds coming in that I just have to let slip by. Unfortunately nothing’s really stand out amazing.

A Visit from the Goon Squad – This is one of those books that, all of a sudden, you see everywhere and yet, I had no idea what it was about. It is about a music exec and his assistant – following their lives in non-chronological, multi-point of view snippets. It made it somewhat hard to really know the characters. It’s one of those “life doesn’t turn out how you expect” stories and felt a lot like The Imperfectionists, so it had a “I’ve read this before” feel.

One Day – This book takes a guy and girl who meet on college graduation and follows them, on that same day every year, for 18 years. It’s a love story, but it’s a slow one – they do their own thing, they grow apart and stop being friends, they get together, etc. It’s interesting because when you only look at one day a year, so much happens and you just see effects of it rather than the events themselves.

Refugee (Bio of a Space Tyrant Vol 1) – Suggested by my sister and it was free on Amazon. This book is obviously the first in a series. It’s written as the memoir of the Tyrant of Jupiter. As this is the first book, it’s about him and his family running away from the oppressive Jupiter moon where they lived. What follows is a pretty horrific story of these refugees traveling to Jupiter. Probably about 50% of this book is raping and killing. Just be prepared.



March 26, 2012

Today is the beginning of the presentations to the Supreme Court about the Affordable Care Act. This Act, signed into law just about 2 years ago, covers a whole bunch of aspects of health care in the United States. It’s going to bring about some big changes. But the main one that seems to have people arguing is the individual mandate that would require almost everyone buy health insurance.

The problem with the individual mandate is determining whether the government has the right to compel people to buy a product. Or rather, do they have the right to impose a penalty (in this case, a tax) on those who choose not to buy. Does this fall under their right to “regulate commerce”? Now of course, everyone having health insurance is a great goal. But, if upheld, how would this apply to other industries and products? The Supreme Court will tackle this monster on Tuesday.

And beyond just whether to uphold the mandate or not, the question is also, can this mandate be separated from the rest the law without hurting its intention? See, if it can’t, then deciding the mandate is unconstitutional would essentially strike the whole act. There’s goes our health care reform, right? That would be terribly sad.

The other areas that all healthy young people should be aware of with the Affordable Care Act are:

  1. Contraception coverage – who’s not excited that health insurance has to provide coverage for contraception? Religious organizations (surprise, surprise). But in all seriousness, this is troublesome for them. And there’s a whole lot of Catholic hospitals and universities out there.
  2. Employer funded insurance plans – this is going to be a big change in the next few years. I think more employers will not find it in their financial interest to provide insurance plans to their employees (especially ones on the lower end of the pay scale). This isn’t necessarily bad, but it will be different.

Anyway, I encourage everyone to read up on the changes that could come about because it will definitely affect everybody. I’m still going through a bunch of articles but hopefully I’ll be able to post some interesting ones next week.



March 23, 2012

GOOD had an article on opting out of standardized state testing. First, I had no idea this is an option nowadays. Second, I’m aware of the arguments that standardized testing is not necessarily an accurate way to judge how smart someone is. Third, standardized testing is so far from my mind – and I’m not even that old – that I’d be a pretty bad judge of how good/bad/hard/biased they are.

It’s funny. I can’t even remember what the SATs and ACTs (yes, I took both) were like. But I remember the Iowa Tests, every other year through elementary and middle school. I have clear memories of questions like if you fold up a piece of paper, hole punch it, then unfold it – what does it look like? I remember because we couldn’t have scrap paper during those sections of the test. Anyway, I have no recollection at all about what my scores looked like on those tests.

Even though I don’t really remember them, I understand how much is riding on these tests – for both students and schools. However, I am personally still partial to standardized tests. I’m a good test taker; I don’t get unreasonable anxious; these tests have never indicated I need remedial classes when I don’t. Adults may not do well on these tests, but there’s a whole game show based on whether adults are smarter than 5th graders (and I’m sure if it was that easy, it’s not much of a game). I may not know any geometry now, but if I’ve been studying it for a good chunk of the year – I better know something.

And kids’ self-esteem – don’t get me started. You cannot protect your kid from every failure and every dent to how awesome they think they are. In fact, I think it’d be better for kids to learn that you can fail a test and it doesn’t mean that you’re not smart. Or you can be placed in special programs or told that you’re not “performing up to the appropriate level” and realize that’s actually how the world works. If you get too nervous at a job interview and do badly, you might not get that job. Or you could totally ace the interview and still not get the job.

Standardized tests aren’t that much different from any other test you’re going to have in life. It’s a learning experience. Pulling your kid out of the test isn’t going to help them.


video sharing.

March 21, 2012

Seems like Netflix wants to jump on the boat and start sharing what you’re watching with all your Facebook friends. Funny, since it seems like the large majority of their users don’t really care what their friends are watching. Plus they have a pesky little law in place that prevents it. But like anything Facebook does – people are up in arms about privacy.

I’m pretty careful about what gets posted to Facebook – meaning nothing if I can help it. I never connect or sign up for anything using my Facebook account because I’m paranoid like that. But I’ve seen the News Feed updates from people listening to X band on Spotify or reading Y article through some sort of app or pinning Z picture to their Pinterest board or, oh my god, that ticker in the corner that tells you EVERYTHING. And if you share this information, is what you’re watching on Netflix that much different?

Maybe if you watch a lot of porn. Though I see this as about the same as knowing you read “Mother rapes own daughter for sex education” or “Miley Cyrus debuts belly-baring dress” on Yahoo – and Facebook definitely told me which of my friends read those articles.

Let’s face it, the easier that sharing is, the more people are going to share. I’m convinced this is why people love Pinterest. And, truth be told, if I saw all my friends watching a show – I’d probably want to at least check it out. Evidence: Breaking Bad (which I still haven’t fully accepted as a show I want to watch but everyone says it is). And wouldn’t it be great if you knew a group of people who watched the same show as you – even the embarrassing ones? Law & Order: SVU? Anybody?

What do you think about automatic sharing? Specifically about video watching: good or bad? Enough to change the law?



March 19, 2012

A large part of being healthy is being aware. Aware of how much you eat, what you eat, your activity level, your energy, your weight, your blood pressure, and lots more. It’s an awareness about how what you do affects how your body responds. People with health issues, I think, tend to be very aware of this kind of thing – from avoiding allergens to monitoring diabetes to preventing asthma attacks.

But mostly healthy people don’t pay that much attention because they don’t need to. This is why when you diet, everyone suggest you write down everything you eat. You suddenly become aware of all that unconscious snacking and you realize exactly how food = how many calories. But it doesn’t have to just be food. It can be applied to exercise, water intake, weight, and any number of lab results. Having this awareness – even when you’re healthy – can provide a good baseline of what all your numbers should be looking like.

This is one reason I’m a big advocate for getting a physical or checking in with a doctor annually. If you have health insurance, this is probably covered and you might as well get it done. Every time I donate blood they tell me my blood pressure and later online, I can check my cholesterol too.

Of course, those kinds of numbers aren’t going to change that often. And tracking anything is just a pain. Which is why there seems to be a sudden increase in technology to help track health. I use just two in my every day life.

WiiFit – I did actually play for a while. Then I couldn’t beat the scores in the balance games and it got boring. But I still use it every day to weigh myself and have it graph over time. I think this is the single most important part of WiiFit. The graph can easily show that you’re gaining weight over the holidays. Or that short stint when I was running – I actually did lose weight.

Fitbit – I’ve written about before. I really do love it. It easily quantifies my activity level and I can log in online to see pretty graphs. I can also track how well I sleep. Now they’ve introduced a new product, Aria – a scale that will also send information to the same page where my steps go. It’d be like a WiiFit but integrated with my Fitbit. It also measures body fat percentage.

There are a few other technologies like FitBit out there. Jawbone and NikePlus Fuelband both come to mind. But I haven’t tried either of them. Jawbone is Apple specific, so not for me. And the Fuelband seems awesome if it didn’t convert to some weird unit of measurement – NikeFuel.

I’m currently trying hard to keep track of how much water I drink every day. I have a tendency to get dehydrated and I’m very interested in whether drinking more water will make me feel better than normal.

This is my second post in my health series. It probably mostly stems from me being a data junkie and tracking health isn’t something most people are going to do. It always tends to have a “dieting” feel to me – even this post sounds that way when I  reread it. But it’s not so much counting calories and writing everything in a journal. It’s just about realizing that you didn’t get any vegetables today or you haven’t had any strenuous activity all week. And, at least for me, tracking pieces makes sure that I know what’s going on.


murder, madness, and magic.

March 16, 2012

Finished a few books recently.

Devil in the White City – This book is a historical fiction about the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1893. It focuses on 2 unrelated characters – the architect behind the building of the fair and a serial killer in Chicago at the time. Not really knowing anything about the Worlds Fair, I thought the book was extremely interesting. So much happened at the fair! The beginning is significantly more dramatized than the second half, but definitely worth a read.

Julie and Julia – I disliked this book, but only after I was finished reading it. My biggest problem is that this cooking project that Julie Powell takes on ends so meaninglessly. I thought the point of the challenge was to gain some meaning in her life, or help her figure out what she wants to do, or something. But in the end, not counting she got a book deal, she’s back exactly where she began – in a crappy temp job, in a crappy apartment, without any plans to do anything different and now she’s fatter. This, compounded by the fact that she whined/complained/freaked out in every single chapter and talked less about the food than everything else in her life – the book was too self-absorbed for me to really like. I pretty much just think she was crazy.

The Magicians – Young adult fiction about (what else) a boy who goes to school to become a magician and then has an adventure. Of course, it feels like Harry Potter – except more apathetic and dirty and college-like. The book breezes by school in the first half, and our magician characters tumble into the real world to be “starving artist” types in NYC. The second half then is the adventure – where the characters venture into a world much like Narnia. Again, it’s typical fantasy adventure – except more dirty and confusing and “real”. I’m working on getting the second book, so we’ll see how that goes.



March 14, 2012

One thing about living in the city is that major grocery shopping is much harder to do. Without a car, I can only carry so much. It’s very limiting. Especially when I’m not the type of person to buy ingredients the day of. Instead I like having a stock on items and then choosing what to make from what I have.

So I’ve obsessively read these pantry essentials articles from The Kitchn. And it got me thinking about my own pantry essentials. I’m going to ignore total basics – oil, salt, pepper, and the like.

  • Rice/Pasta – for one person, pasta is so much easier. But when I make rice, I always make a lot so I can have extra to make fried rice or porridge later in the week. Also, I’m pretty sure ramen falls into this category and I always have that.
  • Eggs – the easiest protein and good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Frozen or Canned veggies – frozen peas, carrots, corn and canned tomatoes to be exact. Helpful in situations where I run out of the fresh kind. Frozen veggies are perfect for fried rice and canned tomatoes are easy for making sauce for pasta.
  • Onions – because they rarely go bad and they can go into everything.
  • Peanut butter or Tuna – the was going to be cheese, but my cheese consumption has gone down significantly. Peanut butter and tuna somehow make their way into my diet way more often than you’d expect. Easy protein and pretty versatile.

There you go. Of course I usually have soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and chicken broth. But they’re non-essential – aka, they won’t be a meal on their own.

What do you keep in your kitchen?



March 12, 2012

This is my first in my health series. It’s an issue near and dear to my heart because I did a lot of work with compliance at Epic. And trust me, a lot of hospitals care a whole lot about these numbers. More than that, quality reporting is one huge attempt to help bring quality of care up to a certain level, to standardize the care you receive. But whether or not it’s working is a whole separate question.

“The jury’s still out on Medicare’s effort to improve hospital quality of care by posting death rates and other metrics on a public website”

That’s the quote coming out of a recent study that indicates public reporting doesn’t really help improve the quality of care at hospitals. It brings to light the obvious question of whether these current metrics are actually indicative of quality of care received. Now let me ask a better question: how many people outside the healthcare industry know quality metrics are reported on public websites, much less, what that website is?

If the answer is what I think (not many), then the whole incentive of public reporting is somewhat lost, right? Then again, if your hospital has a strong enough reputation, maybe it doesn’t matter. This is one time when the healthcare industry is trying hard to be transparent, to help patients find the best care. And it’s complicated and boring and just piles of data.

My hypothesis: the public reporting aspect of these metrics was an afterthought. The financial incentive from CMS is much more compelling. That’s why all this data isn’t put to good use – just take a look at some examples.

  • Hospital Compare. It gives a whole lot of information: outcome metrics, process metrics, patient surveys.
  • Quality Check - is provided by the Joint Commission. It compares only accredited hospitals and how they’re doing on various quality measures.
  • visualization done by GE using data from the Joint Commission in 2009. Same kind of information as the others, but this is much simpler and looks pretty.

Is this really just information overload for the average patient? Is healthcare data inherently difficult to understand because it’s so specialized and specific (would I even know what I’m looking for to judge quality)? Is this even the kind of comparison or research one does when looking for specific care (say, if I needed a surgery)? Or would you get a referral from your doctor and go with that?



March 9, 2012

Healthcare technology is fascinating to me. While all the expensive medical equipment in hospitals and clinics  is cool, I’m really interested in the technology that patients can use and technology that makes healthcare more transparent. Perhaps this is because I, personally, hope I never have need of robotic surgery equipment or fast healing bone putty. Or maybe because I’ll never get to operate an MRI machine (nor would I really understand what it was doing anyway).

And of course, there’s been a boom of patient centered technology coming out – especially with the proliferation of smartphones. Techcrunch wrote about some interesting apps. There are lots of ways to find a doctor near you: iTriage and ZocDoc as examples. And of course, don’t forget the good old staple of just googling your symptoms to see what’s wrong (tip: I’m pretty sure this never works out and it will always convince you that you have some sort of cancer or terrible illness).

But my point is that, as a healthy 26-year old, I’m interested in the technology and information that might actually be applicable to me. Instead of something to help me when I’m sick, I want something to help me stay healthy and informed. This must be why I like working with electronic health records. Even though I’m healthy and rarely see the doctor – I still have a medical record (albeit one I’ve never seen or requested) and it should still matter to me.

So I’m going to try doing a small health series – because I read a lot of health related news. And I think a lot of people are in the same boat as me – young, healthy, reactive, and pretty much the opposite of a hypochondriac. We’ll see how this goes.


Disclaimer: I am not, in any way, medically trained and anything I saw should be taken with a grain of salt. This is just stuff that’s interesting to me and so I like to share.


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