Archive for the ‘Things I Actually Like’ Category

The Time I Wrote About Electronic Health Records

April 14, 2013 1 comment

So, I don’t usually tackle serious topics on this blog, unless you consider severe anal trauma to be a subject of national importance. But I’m going to go ahead and break my informal rule.

Full disclaimer: I work in the field of electronic health records (EHR, also known as electronic medical records, or EMR). I’m not a vendor, and I’m not a provider, but rather I work at a nonprofit advocacy group for the modernization of American healthcare.

The USA is behind in so many ways. Most of our citizens’ health records are still on paper that must be schlepped from office to office, from hospital to hospital. Perhaps if you don’t have a chronic health issue, you don’t realize the inconvenience and incompetence this systems fosters. Imagine having cancer and having to carry a stack of files taller than 15 iPads stacked on top of each other to every specialist you see. Picture having to trust your medical records to a family member because you are too ill to take care of them. Wonder how a doctor will ever be able to read the horrible handwriting on a an old, yellowed piece of paper from 1992 that nonetheless may hold the key to diagnosing your condition.

Paper health records slow down a process that is already painful enough on its own. If you are admitted to an ER after a horrible car crash, how will the doctors and nurses on staff know about your allergies or past medical conditions? Yes, you could carry a flash drive or something on you at all times, but who’s to say it didn’t get crushed in the crash? What if the nurse on duty doesn’t have access to a computer that can view your files? In short, the system is FUCKED.

But this is not only a problem for John and Jane America. As Jon Stewart has recently brought up on The Daily Show it affects our veterans as well.

The Red Tape Diaries – Veteran Benefits

The Red Tape Diaries – A Modernized Department of Veterans Affairs

(I would embed these videos, but that feature apparently doesn’t work on WordPress. Lovely.)

Watch those two videos (er, assuming you have an American IP address, and try this app if you don’t), and tell me that those veterans don’t deserve better. That they should somehow be expected to wait over a year to hear a decision regarding their benefits. Benefits they never would have been eligible for had they not been wounded serving our country. To have recently returned soldiers grappling with their physical and psychological trauma with NO assistance from the government or anyone else is criminal.

The barriers to implementation are two-fold. One is the resistance of the old guard to change their ways. Though this sector is rapidly decreasing, it is still there, and it is full of providers who performed their jobs just fine on paper since the 1960s, and see no reason to change to a newfangled electronic system now. Why fix what ain’t broke? The second is the sheer cost of purchasing and using an electronic health record system. Imagine a room full to the brim with paper records. As Stewart pointed out, the weight of them can be enough to collapse through floors. Now think about the work and time required to transfer all of those to an electronic system. Is it impossible? No. But for many smaller practices, at least, the prospect of closing a practice for a week or more to perform the switch is simply unthinkable. The lost revenue alone makes it a nearly impossible scenario. Then of course there is the cost of the EHR system itself (not cheap), and the training needed for staff to actually use the new technology. There are government incentives available to qualified small practices to help subsidize this huge cost, but for doctors close to retirement, the benefits simply do not outweigh the investment.

However, for Veterans Affairs? What is their excuse? They are not a single doctor practice. They are not even an urban hospital. They are responsible for ALL US MILITARY SOLDIERS. The thought of them spending money on a new hand-crank filing system rather than investing in EHRs is laughable. They have the means, they simply seem to lack the will.

Though of course, even once you have an EHR system, there is still the difficulty of having each system talk to each other. That is what the first Daily Show clip addressed. Two systems, though electronic, cannot speak to each other unless the same vendor supplied both. This is one of the things my organization is currently working on – how to get all these disparate systems to talk to each other so that information simply FLOWS instead of becoming bogged down in red tape and misery.

Yes, there are many complexities associated with EHRs. What of privacy issues? What of security? What about the records of minors? But we have to face it – the future is coming, whether doctors, patients, or government bureaucrats want it or not. And to spend resources fighting against it rather than working to ensure its success dooms not only our generation, but the next to the medical inadequacies of our forefathers.

The Time I Went to SantaCon

December 24, 2012 1 comment

So, SantaCon is (by this point) an international parade of Santas and drunkenness.

The NYC one is pretty huge every year, though I had never gone before. Mostly because I didn’t want to be trampled by surly Santas. But since I’m never one to turn down an opportunity to wear a costume in public, I decided to attend.

The celebration was on December 15 this year, and it was crowded, but luckily not the shit show I had been anticipating. I dressed as a reindeer and swam as a furry lump of brown in a sea of cheap red velveteen. People were drunk, and I got stepped on a few times, but most people were actually more jolly than out of control. Every bar even vaguely on the Santa route had people lining up for 30+ minutes just to get inside, so my co-worker and I popped into the largest bars we could find. Once inside, it was nearly impossible to get a drink, but with patience, we were finally able to enjoy ourselves amidst the nearly 30,000 people dressed up and hammered that day.

Also, these photos have once again reminded me that I need to lose some weight. Sigh. Below are also photos of a packed Santa bar (off the route, so at least you could breathe in there), and this one girl’s awesome homemade menorah costume. All the candles lit up!

reindeer1 reindeer2



The Time My Brother Created Contests

December 7, 2012 Leave a comment


It’s been a while, I know. I don’t really have an excuse, except that I simply couldn’t think of anything to write about. I don’t want to put out drivel simply for the sake of publishing something, but apparently nothing interesting has happened to me in weeks. This is depressing in of itself, but I decided to try and write today because I miss it. I began this blog as a type of therapy for myself – to create something that I can look back on later and say, “Yes, I made that.” Even if it was crap. Because otherwise I leave nothing behind except some body heat and (probable) flatulence. I even went out and bought a new sketchbook to begin drawing again, which I gave up several years ago when my forward progress slowed to a trickle.

It’s always that way when you take up a new hobby. For a while, the learning curve is steep, but your accomplishments grow by leaps and bounds within a very short amount of time. It’s the ability to keep going with a project after you’ve achieved basic competency that sets a talent apart, and I tend to lack that kind of discipline and conviction. How many things have I started and then given up on just as quickly? I hope this blog and writing doesn’t become one of those things.

I’ve been slowly listening my way through this Story Board hangout with The Bloggess, Wil Wheaton, Patrick Rothfuss, and John Scalzi, which I highly recommend if you’ve ever taken a stab at memoir-style writing.

Anyway, aside from me being a sad sack lately, I wanted to talk about my brother’s lovely Facebook contests that he’s been having recently. I’m tempted to start one of my own, but I’m afraid I’d get approximately zero responses, which would be like the time I had a birthday party that nobody attended (true story, and endlessly depressing).

Each day, he chooses a topic or theme for people to weigh in on, then chooses a “winner” (who receives nothing but a smug sense of self-satisfaction) based on the number of “likes” or his own personal preference. So without further ado, a best of his recent contests! My brother is clearly the creative powerhouse here, and thus technically wins most of his own contests, I believe.

November 27: Terrible Children’s Book Titles


  • “Cassie – The Faerie With No Particular Goals or Talent”
  • “All Bees Die: Dealing With Angry Feelings”
  • “Johnny Appleseed – A Children’s Guide to Paternal Identification”
  • “Slapping Is Just Faster Cuddling”


  • “Everybody Poops………And Saves It in Jars in the Guest Room”


  • “Not In the Face!: A Guide to Surviving Daddy’s Drunken Rage”

November 29: Breakfast Cereals of the Dystopian Future


  • “Penance Pops”
  • “Half-Life Cereal”


  • “Ricin Crispies”


  • “Cinnamon Toast… SHHH! Put out the fire I hear someone coming.”

November 30: Tourism-Boosting Slogans for Crappy Cities


  • “Des Moines – Inexplicably French”
  • “Cincinnati – Where Racism Meets the Cloudy Sky”
  • “Sheffield – Come See What’s Left”
  • “Jackson Hole – Fit It All In.”


  • “Schenectady – Home of the Bulletproof Drive-through”


  • “Boston – Specialists in Slightly Odd Drunken Male Aggression Since 1647!”
  • “Toronto – Come Wait in a Nice Straight Line.”


  • “Barstow…A Good Place to Pee.”

December 3: Frustrated Panda Haiku

Girl panda beckons.
I’ll pretend to read instead.
God, I hate the spring.

Children point and shout,
“Silly panda, dance for us!”
Masturbating now.

Mate, or chew bamboo.
Mate, or chew bamboo. Let’s see …
Oh look! A tire swing.

Fur tight from eating.
Bamboo is my only friend.
Shame is the season.

Zoo breeding program,
Workers are showing us porn,
Small junk remains limp.

Oh, God, this ennui,
The dark stench envelopes me,
Lin Lin shit himself.

December 4: First Line of Cookie Monster Apology Letters to the Woman He Loves


  • “Me sorry. Okay? Me said it. You like see Cookie beg? You like see Cookie debase himself? Me do it. Me will, girl. Me hurt self. You see.”


  • “Dear Krista, Cookie want write for to say how sorry he am for incident at Krista’s sister’s wedding. Cookie feel emotions and not know what to do with them… So he eat cookie and drink schnapps and fight old man.”


  • “C is for cookie. Good enough for me. A is for asshole. Not how I want to be.”

December 5: The Teachings of Drunk Miyagi


  • “Paint the fence, don’t paint it … fuck do I care?”
  • “You no speshle, Dan-yu-san, you no speshle! Miyagi have whole ARMY of Dan-yu-sans in 70’s, wash Miyagi, feed him, sing him to sleep, play shamisen … soapy … soapyyyyyy……”


  • “So I tells him, I tells him, I could catch your DICK in my chopsticks, you should have seen his face…”

The Time Halloween Was Cancelled

November 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Yes, I understand why it was cancelled, and it was clearly appropriate to do so, but I can’t help but be disappointed all the same. I spent so much time and energy on my costume, only to miss out on the annual NYC Halloween Parade.

Oh, well. Next year!

I at least did get to dress up on the Saturday before Halloween, though the pictures I took were terrible since I was in a rush, and I figured I’d get better photos the day of the parade. Oops? So I have no close-ups of my makeup, though I’ve linked to the YouTube tutorials I used below.

A group of teenage girls ran screaming from me in the street, then came up to me and wanted my photo, so I think the costume was a success! According to many, I looked terrifying (and unrecognizable) at night in NYC.

I used a combination of makeup tutorials, mostly from this video and this one. I used black and white Wolfe FX makeup, and lots of cheap black eye shadow and makeup brushes from the dollar store. I actually completely forgot to paint in the cracks on my skull, which I’ll have to fix if I ever do this makeup again. Most parts of the costume were from China via eBay. I look super short and stumpy in this photo because 1) I am really short, 2) The skirt was long (below the knee), which didn’t help matters, and 3) My roommate who took the photo is considerably taller than me. Sigh.

The Time I Carved a Pumpkin

October 24, 2012 Leave a comment

As has been covered on this blog before, I really like pumpkins and Halloween. Last year, I wrote about my annual pumpkin party, where friends get together to eat pumpkin goodies and carve late into the night.

This past weekend was my 6th annual pumpkin party, and this year’s internet-themed pumpkin is, of course, Gangnam Style. In the past, I’ve done LOLcat (LOLkin?) and Dramatic Chipmunk/Prairie Dog pumpkins.

This year, I tried to raise the bar by attempting text not only in English, but also in Korean. This took ages, and was pretty much a terrible idea, but I think it turned out okay in the end. I messed up the first “a” and “n” in “Gangnam,” but I tried my best!

The Time I Posted an Animated GIF

September 24, 2012 3 comments

The Time I Drank Pumpkin Beer

September 19, 2012 Leave a comment

So, I’ve sampled a lot of pumpkin-flavored beverages in my day. I’ve tried Brooklyn Brewery’s Post Road Pumpkin Ale, O’Fallon Brewery’s Pumpkin Ale (still my favorite), Morgan Street Brewery’s Pumpkin Honey Wheat, Coors’ Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale, Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale, Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, and Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale. And probably a few others that I can’t remember at the moment.

The point is, I like my pumpkins and booze to intermingle. So here are two reviews of varieties I tried for the first time this year.

Harpoon Pumpkin Cider
Boston, MA and Windsor, VT
Ingredients: fermented apple juice, pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.
140 calories, 4.8% ALC/VOL

  • Looks: 7/10 – I actually don’t know since I never poured it into a glass, but instead drank it straight from the bottle. What can I say? I’m fancy. But as far as I can tell, it’s your standard clear cider drink.
  • Smell: 8/10 – Smells heavily of apples (no surprise there) and cinnamon. Given the ingredients list, that’s no surprise.
  • Taste: 6/10 – Though the pumpkin taste is certainly there eventually, it mostly tastes like apple cider first and foremost. It’s quite sweet, but has a slightly bitter aftertaste. It’s not bad at all, but not my favorite form of pumpkin booze either. When will we get a pumpkin-flavored vodka on the market?
  • Overall: 7/10 – It’s mostly FINE. So maybe I should knock it down to a 6/10 or something. I always overrate my alcohol, mostly because I get buzzed after a few sips. Basically, when it comes to pumpkin alcohol, beer is still the best pairing. But hey, if you gotta have your harvest duo of apples and pumpkins TOGETHER, knock yourself out with this drink.

Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat
St. Louis, MO
Belgian-style wheat ale brewed with ripe pumpkins, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.
168 calories, 5.2% ALC/VOL

  • Looks: 8/10 – Um, looks like beer. Once again, I’ve come to this startling conclusion by peering into the top of the bottle, since I’m not using a glass.
  • Smell: 5/10 – No pumpkin aroma whatsoever. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this smelled like a Budweiser. Maybe that’s just because Anheuser-Busch makes it? (Note: I took most of my college classes in Anheuser-Busch Hall. Way to go, Washington University, for making that building devoted to East Asian Studies.)
  • Taste: 4/10 – I…don’t get it. I taste no pumpkin. Well, maybe a slight hint of spice one second after swallowing? Seriously, I’m confused. Did I get a messed up batch?
  • Overall: 5/10 – I’m really disappointed by the lack of pumpkin flavor, but it’s okay as a regular beer. I suppose. Man, maybe I was wrong about beer being the proper complement to pumpkin. Apples are winning hands down at this point.

The Time I Bought Costumes

September 12, 2012 Leave a comment

So, I’m a bit obsessed with Halloween and costumes in general.

Now, I’ve talked about costumes here before. I’ve dressed up as Hermione in Japan, a crazed Swan Lake ballerina, a space mouse (and one year, a space TIGER), and a 1920s flapper (TWICE).

So perhaps it’s no surprise that I’ve already purchased most of my costume for Halloween this year. And it’s pretty much all from China via eBay since I’m cheap. Can you figure out what I’m going to be?

What, did you not guess a skeletal undead gothic lolita? Because of course I’m going to be that. DUH.

The Time I Read MORE Non-Fiction Books

September 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Two days ago, I posted five other non-fiction books inspired by the post 10 Non-fiction Books for the Novel Lover. So without further ado, I’ve selected five (slightly) less morbid non-fiction books I’ve enjoyed over the past few years or so.

  • Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain by Martha Sherrill

    Though the Akita is a fairly well-known Japanese breed of dog today, at the end of WWII, there were only 16 left in existence. This is the story of one man’s mission to single-handedly save the breed, giving up his job and home in the process. The snow country where the dogs thrive is forbidding and lonely, but it’s a fascinating story full of great characters and dogs with big personalities.


  • The Translator: A Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari

    A memoir of navigating among the genocide of Darfur as a translator who himself was victimized. How does one escape a terrible war, then reenter as a mediator? Heartbreaking and terrifying, it’s a unique first-person account of the atrocities in Sudan.


  • The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence by Gavin De Becker

    This is a book that I’ve recommended to just about everyone, especially all of my female friends. It shows you that ignoring your own intuition could be the last mistake that you ever make. The author is an expert on violence and personal safety, and he provides insights via real-world examples that reveal the power of fear. Self-preservation may be the most innate of human instincts, but too many people (especially women) have been taught to ignore the signals that might save their lives.


  • The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russia by Tim Tzouliadis

    A sad tale of the American citizens who defected to Russia in search of a Communist ideal, but were instead arrested and “vanished” to the prison camps of Siberia. The tragedy of idealism shattered and forgotten is poignant and frightening.


  • Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Modern Japan by Alex Kerr

    I almost hesitate to recommend this book since I take issue with some of its statements and generalizations, but I still think it’s an interesting look at Japan’s economic rise and fall, and the inept bureaucracy that keeps the country stagnant. Written by a foreigner, the book nonetheless has an insider feel, and inherent hypocrisies are detailed and bemoaned. How can a country that ostensibly feels such a kinship with nature cover most of its landscape with unnecessary thick sheets of concrete? Despite the rich history in Kyoto, ancient buildings are toppled in the name of “progress,” though the future towards which Japan strives seems unclear, even to those who are supposedly in control.

The Time I Read Non-Fiction Books

September 5, 2012 1 comment

Inspired by this post 10 Non-fiction Books for the Novel Lover, I thought I’d list some more books along the same line. I read primarily novels, but given my morbid fascination with crime, disasters, and mayhem, I do occasionally dip my toe into the world of non-fiction.

  • Columbine by Dave Cullen

    A recounting of what happened before, on, and after the school shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, FBI psychologists, and the boy’s tapes and diaries, the author gives the first complete account of the Columbine tragedy. I was in 9th grade when the shooting occurred, and afterwards my school practiced lock-down drills and gave lessons on how to barricade the doors with tables and desks.


  • The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science by Douglas Starr

    The true story of the 19th-century French serial killer Joseph Vacher, who is thought to have killed at least 25 people. Forensic science, then only in its infancy, eventually catches up to the murderer. I thought it was a really interesting entry into the history of forensic science, and what preceded more modern techniques like fingerprint analysis and trace evidence.


  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

    What are dead bodies used for after they’ve been donated to science? As it turns out, a lot more than you might have expected. Far from the dissection table, cadavers have furthered science’s understanding of decomposition, transportation safety, footwear, land mines, and more.


  • Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

    A terrifying (to me at least) memoir regarding a deadly snow storm that settled onto Mount Everest’s peak in 1996. Human error and unforgiving mother nature combine to kill several seasoned climbers in their quest for the summit.


  • Death’s Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales by Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson

    This book is all about the Body Farm near the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Essentially, it’s a small plot of land where bodies are left to decay in kinds of settings. How can the life cycle of insects devouring a cadaver help pinpoint the time of death? What about the fluids that leak from a decomposing body – could they help solve a crime? How do moisture and temperature affect the appearance of a body? How can scientists be fooled into thinking a 150-year-old corpse was buried only last month? What can truly be determined from nothing more than a skeleton? The stories can be slightly disturbing, but still fascinating.

I’ll post more on Friday, and I promise they won’t be so morbid. Maybe.


Okay, no promises.

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